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On April 23, 2007, about 0930 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-161, N8171V, experienced a loss of power during the takeoff initial climb and collided with terrain at Palo Alto, California. Shoreline Flying Club was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The student pilot, the sole occupant, sustained minor injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The local instructional flight was originating from the Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County Airport at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector stated that he had communicated with the student pilot following the accident. The student pilot reported that during the initial climb out from runway 31, the engine experienced a loss of power. The airplane collided with the ground in a marsh about 200 yards from the departure end of the runway surface.
In a written statement, the pilot reported that fuel was added prior to departure. After it was fueled, the pilot sumped the tank, confirming it was not contaminated with water. The pilot taxied the airplane to the active runway and conducted a run-up. Noting nothing unusual, the pilot departed. As the airplane reached about 300 feet above ground level (agl), the engine experienced a loss of power. In response, the pilot manipulated the throttle forward and aft, which resulted in a temporary surge, but the engine eventually failed to produce any power. The pilot switched the fuel tank selector from the right to the left position.
The airplane continued to descend, and as landing gear touched down in the soft mud, the airplane suddenly stopped and collided with terrain
TESTS AND RESEARCH
An aviation mechanic examined the airplane under the auspice of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector. In a written statement, the mechanic reported that the right fuel tank was full and the left tank was about 75 percent full with fuel. Removal of the carburetor revealed that the bowl was clean and full with fuel; no water was present. The float was inspected and found to be operating properly. The carburetor venturi, jets, and accelerator pump additionally appeared to be normal.
The mechanic further stated that he removed the gascolator, which appeared to be clean of debris. The fuel filters were inspected and appeared clean. The electric boost pump was activated and appeared to be working normally. The spark plugs were removed and were visually inspected; the coloration was consistent with normal operating signatures. With the spark plugs attached to magneto leads, the mechanic activated the electric starter and obtained spark from each plug. The air induction system aft of the air filter appeared to be clean and free from contaminants; the front of the filter was packed with mud from the accident site.
The FAA inspector stated that the examination revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunction or failures with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.