On November 3, 2009, at 1720 eastern standard time, a Mooney 20C, N6896U, collided with a tree during a force landing following a loss of engine power in Fairview, North Carolina. The airplane incurred substantial damage and the pilot and passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the flight from the Smith Reynolds Airport (INT), Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), Asheville, North Carolina. The airplane was registered to and operated by an individual under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a personal flight. The flight departed INT about 1609, earlier that day.

The pilot stated that he and his passenger were about 50 minutes into the flight when the engine’s “power rolled back” and the propeller continued to windmill. The airplane was at an altitude of 8,000 feet mean sea level at that time. The pilot placed the electric fuel pump on and switched fuel tanks; however, the engine never regained power. The pilot advised the air traffic controller of the situation and requested vectors for the nearest airport. He set up the airplane for best glide configuration. The pilot realized the airplane was not going to reach the intended airport and elected to land in an open corn field, which was separated into two sections by trees. The airplane’s right wing impacted a tree about 50 feet above the ground. The airplane swung around and impacted the ground nose first before coming to rest inverted. The pilot and passenger were extricated from the wreckage by rescue personnel and taken to the hospital. The accident site was about 9 miles east of AVL.

The first responders reported to the Federal Aviation Administration inspector on scene that there was no visual indication or odor of fuel at the accident site. The wreckage recovery crew reported that no fuel was observed during the recovery process.

The pilot stated that the airplane was topped off on October 24, 2009, and that it can could hold a total of 52 gallons, 4 of them unusable. Since the top off the, the airplane has flownflew a total of 4 four flights: one for 1.5 hours, another for 1 hour, another local flight of about 40 minutes, and the 50- minute accident flight. During his preflight inspection, the pilot visually checked the fuel levels in each tank, observing that the right wing was about at 1/4 tank and the left wing was about at 1/2 tank. The engine had accumulated about 120 hours since overhaul, and the pilot believed that the fuel consumption was about 9 gallons per hour. A representative from the fixed base operator at INT, where the accident airplane is was based, stated that fueling records showed that on October 17, 2009, the airplane was serviced with 30 gallons of fuel.

A wreckage examination by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed no discrepancy with the airplane’s fuel system. The airplane’s Type Certificate Data Sheets makes reference to fuel capacity as 48 gallons usable and about 1/2 gallon (3.4 lb) unusable, for a total of 48.5 gallons maximum capacity. The Textron Lycoming, 5th edition, Operator’s Manual, for the O-360 and associated model engines, makes reference to a fuel consumption of 10.5 gallons per hour at 75 % power setting.

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