LAX06LA023
LAX06LA023

On October 31, 2005, about 1545 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-28-161, N83785, experienced a loss of engine power during cruise and collided with obstacles during a forced landing in a Cherry Orchard about 5 miles east of Kingdon Airport (O20), Lodi, California. The private pilot/owner operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, as a personal local area flight. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The pilot and one passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed O20 about 1525, and was destined for Kingdon Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed the pilot. The pilot indicated that an annual inspection had been completed on the airplane on August 23, 2005. On the day of the pilot checked the fuel during his preflight on the day of the accident. He reported one fuel tank was at the "tabs" and the other fuel tank had about 7 to 8 gallons.

The pilot stated that once the loss of engine power occurred, he attempted to restart the engine with the auxiliary pump selected to the ON position.

In the pilot's written statement, he started the engine and conducted a run-up and instrument check. After departure, he made a left turn and climbed to 2,000 feet. He circled the edge of the city, and made a turn to the south. About 25 minutes into the flight, the engine stopped producing power and the propeller windmilled. He checked the instruments and stated that they appeared normal. The pilot located a plowed field to make a forced landing and attempted to restart the engine via the ignition switch (left, right, both). He also switched fuel tanks in an attempt to get the engine to restart. The airplane was at a low altitude and he focused his attention on landing. The pilot stated that after touchdown, he "no longer had any control" and the airplane came to rest at the edge of an orchard.

The airplane came to rest in a nose down attitude with the right wing lying underneath the fuselage; the right wing had separated at the wing root. The pilot observed fuel leaking from the fuel tanks.

The Safety Board IIC interviewed the mechanic who performed the annual inspection. He reported that the airplane flew 9/10ths of an hour right after the annual inspection, and then it was tied down outside until the day of the accident.

A Safety Board investigator conducted an engine inspection and ground run. There were no obvious visual malfunctions noted with the engine. The top spark plugs were removed and according to the Champion Aviation Check-A-Plug AV-27 chart exhibited signatures associated with normal operation. The cylinders were borescoped with no anomalies noted. The investigator established engine to magneto timing at 25 degrees before top dead center. The control cables remained attached to the carburetor. Thumb compression was established in firing order. Fuel was added to the electric fuel pump inlet and tested with no mechanical malfunctions.

To facilitate the engine ground run, the air intake hose was removed due to large amounts of dirt in the hose. The engine was started and ground run at 1,700 revolutions per minute (rpm), with acceleration and deceleration tests conducted successfully. A magneto comparison test was conducted (mag drop), with about a 75-rpm drop for each magneto. The engine was shutdown and the air inlet line to air filter was reattached. The engine was started and ground run with no mechanical anomalies noted. The engine driven fuel pump was tested without the electrical fuel pump with no discrepancies encountered.

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