On December 7, 2008, about 1619 eastern standard time, an experimental amateur built Merrell F1 Rocket EVO, N757SM, registered to and operated by a private individual, experienced a loss of engine power and was substantially damaged during an off airport forced landing near Sebastian Municipal Airport (X26), Sebastian, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal local flight from X26. The commercial-certificated pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The flight originated about 4 minutes earlier from X26. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot stated that the airplane was fueled the day before at X26 which brought the usable fuel supply to approximately 45 gallons. The airplane was then flown to Rockledge Airport (21FA), and secured; no discrepancies were noted during the return flight after fueling. The flight duration was 1.2 hours which included a climb at full throttle to 7,000 feet mean sea level.
The pilot further stated that on the afternoon of the accident date, he performed a preflight inspection of the airplane and reported observing a "skim amount of fuel" in the right fuel tank, while the left tank contained an estimated three inches greater quantity of fuel. He elected to depart 21FA with the fuel selector positioned to the right fuel tank and proceeded to X26, where he performed a full stop taxi back landing on runway 04. He performed an engine run-up before departure, and after takeoff with the fuel selector positioned to the right tank, the flight remained in left traffic pattern for runway 04. During the downwind leg when the flight was abeam the approach end of runway 04, behind another airplane that was on an extended downwind, the engine lost power. He had to regain control of the airplane which took 15-20 seconds, maintained best glide airspeed, and turned towards the runway. Realizing he would be unable to land on the runway, he maneuvered the airplane for a forced landing. Before ground contact he switched the fuel selector to the left tank position but this did not restore engine power. After coming to rest upright, he evacuated the airplane and called 911 for assistance.
Inspection of the airplane and accident site was performed the following day by an FAA airworthiness inspector. The examination of both revealed no evidence of fuel leakage, which was also later confirmed by a State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee. The fuel selector was found positioned to the left tank, and the fuel tanks were not breached. The fuselage was broken forward of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and all three propeller blades were bent aft. The airplane was released for recovery.
According to an individual who helped recover the airplane, the right fuel tank was empty, and the left fuel tank contained approximately 15 gallons.
An individual who retained the wreckage following recovery confirmed neither fuel tank was breached. No obstructions of the fuel supply system from each wing root area to the engine compartment were noted. Additionally, fuel was noted in the fuel gascolator, in the fuel line between the auxiliary fuel pump and engine-driven fuel pump, and also in the bottom portion of the engine-driven fuel pump.
Safety Board review of the Before Take Off checklist revealed the fuel selector is to be positioned to the fullest tank.