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On July 13, 2007, about 1245 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 180A, N5248D, experienced a loss of engine power and collided with a ditch about 2 nautical miles (nm) from Benton Field, Redding, California. The private pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed from Arlington Municipal Airport, Arlington, Washington, at an unknown time, and briefly stopped in Grants Pass, Oregon, departing about 1100 for a final destination of Redding. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.
In an interview with a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, the pilot stated that while on a 2.5-mile final approach to the airport, the airplane was at an altitude of 3,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The engine experienced a loss of power and the pilot performed an emergency landing in a field. The airplane collided with a berm during the landing roll. The right wing sustained damage to the ribs during the accident sequence.
The airplane was a Cessna 180A, serial number 50146, which was manufactured in 1957, and purchased by the pilot in August 2005. The pilot reported that the airframe had accumulated a total time in service of 3,335.8 hours. The most recent annual inspection of the airframe was completed on June 01, 2007, equating to 31.8 hours prior to the accident.
The power plant was a Teledyne Continental Motors O-470-K, serial number 48158-7-K. According to the pilot, the engine had undergone an annual inspection the same date as the airframe, at which time the tachometer indicated the engine had accumulated 263.6 hours since the last overhaul, and 3,367.6 hours total time in service.
A review of the airplane's maintenance logbooks revealed that in January 1977, at an airplane total time of 1,905.7 hours, the fuel bladders were serviced. The entry states that both the left and right fuel bladders (serial number M-1422 and M-1398) were removed and repaired. The entry further reads that the bladders were subsequently reinstalled with new gaskets and sending units, followed by a leak check. The mechanic signed the entry after attesting that the work was performed in accordance with the Cessna Overhaul Manual.
The airplane's fuel system consists of two rubberized bladder-type tanks located in the inboard section of both the left and right wing; both tanks have a capacity of 32.5 gallons. According to the applicable Cessna Owner's Manual, 1.5 gallons of fuel is unusable and an additional 3.5 gallons is unusable in non-level flight, equating to 5 gallons of unusable fuel in each tank in non-level flight. Fuel from the selected tank is gravity fed from the bladder via a fuel line to the fuel selector valve, which is located in the cockpit between the front seats. The rotary-type fuel valve enables the pilot to select the "both off," "left tank," "both on," and "right tank" positions. The fuel continues from the selector to the fuel strainer, and then to the carburetor.
The fuel bladders are interconnected via a vent crossover line routed over the cockpit area. The fuel tank vent is located behind the left wing strut. The vent line connects with the left tank in the upper area of the forward inboard side of the bladder. It additionally connects the right bladder via the crossover vent line, venting the right tank. According to a Cessna representative, fuel would not transfer from one bladder to the other unless the vent line was submerged in fuel. The bladders each have one fuel line attach fitting in a low area of the bladder, about .22 inches from the bottom in the aft section of the inboard side of the bladder. Fuel is gravity fed from both bladder tanks to the selector valve at the same time.
The pilot reported that the fuel quantity was checked before departing from Grants Pass, but no fuel was added.
The pilot reported to a Safety Board investigator that the right fuel tank was empty, and he thought the left fuel tank had about 6.5 gallons of fuel remaining; the fuel selector was positioned on the "both" selection.
According to a sheriff's deputy who responded to the accident, the airplane came to rest with the right wing low. Both fuel tanks remained intact. The deputy reported that he tried to sump the left tank and there was no fuel present. He additionally searched for fuel in the right tank by looking inside and shaking the wing, but was unable to see any due to its position.
Personnel who recovered the wreckage reported that there was no fuel in the left fuel tank and the right fuel tank contained about 6 gallons. According to the recovery personnel, both tanks remained intact.