LAX05LA279
LAX05LA279

On August 25, 2005, at 0750 Pacific daylight time, a Beech 35-A33 single-engine airplane, N337Z, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during a forced landing following a loss of engine power at the Alturas Municipal Airport, Alturas, California. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the auspices of 14 CFR Part 91 as a personal flight. The pilot, sole occupant, sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country flight that originated from Montague, California, at 0705.

During a telephone interview conducted by the NTSB investigator-in-charge, the pilot indicated he was flying to Alturas to participate in aerial fire fighting operations. The flight to Alturas was uneventful, and while at 7,500 feet, about 10 miles from the airport, he reduced power for descent. The engine lost power and continued to "sputter" during the entire descent. The pilot reported that the fuel flow was "real low." He went through the emergency procedures by turning the fuel boost pump on and switched the fuel selector from the left to the right; however, was only able to obtain a "bit of power." He then secured the airplane for landing.

When asked to clarify whether or not the engine lost power before or after he switched fuel tanks, the pilot stated that he switched fuel tanks from the left to the right, reduced engine power for the descent, and then the engine lost power. He said he knew the left fuel tank was near empty when he switched to the right tank. He added that the right tank and auxiliary tanks were near full when he switched and after losing engine power, he tried the other fuel tanks.

The airplane impacted terrain and a fence, structurally damaging the left rear spar and leading edge of the right wing. The firewall was damaged and the engine was displaced from its mount.

The pilot provided a written statement regarding the events that preceded the accident. According to his statement, he conducted a preflight inspection and noticed that the right main fuel tank was full, the left main tank was "partial", and both auxiliary fuel tanks were full. He conducted an engine run-up and departed for Alturas.

The pilot flew the airplane to Alturas utilizing the left fuel tank, and switched fuel tanks from the left to the right when the airplane was about 10 miles from the airport. The pilot maneuvered the airplane on base for runway 13 and reduced power for the descent to the airport. At that point in the flight, the engine began to "lose power and sputter" so the pilot applied full throttle and mixture, and moved the propeller control to the full forward position. The pilot also turned the fuel boost pump to the ON position and noted the fuel pressure rise to "the 6-7 range [6 to 7 psi]." According to the pilot, the engine continued to sputter so the pilot repositioned the fuel selector back to the left fuel tank, but did not notice the engine improve. The pilot continued to utilize the boost pump and manipulate the throttle control, but could not develop full power. He kept the landing gear retracted and lined up for the runway. When he lowered the landing gear, the descent rate increased and the airplane landed short of the runway, bounced into the air, crossed over a road and hit a chain link fence. When the airplane came to rest, the pilot shut down the airplane and exited.

According to a mechanic who repositioned the airplane to the airport ramp area following the accident, the left main fuel tank was empty and the right main fuel tank was about full.

According to the pilot's statement, he accumulated a total of 3,955 hours of flight time, of which 4.2 hours were accumulated in the accident airplane make and model.

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