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On November 21, 2009, at 1530 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N909CW, was substantially damaged following a loss of engine power and forced landing after takeoff from the Hammonton Municipal Airport (N81), Hammonton, New Jersey. The certificated private pilot was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
In a written statement, the pilot described performing the preflight inspection, run-up, and takeoff from runway 3 according to the checklist. The pilot stated that he began the takeoff with the fuel selector in the "left tank" position. A check of the fuel flow gauge prior to lift-off revealed an 18 gallon per hour rate of consumption. After takeoff, the pilot retracted the landing gear, turned left, and climbed the airplane to 425 feet mean sea level, where the engine stopped producing power. The pilot switched fuel tanks, but received "no response" from the engine.
The pilot stated that he adjusted his airspeed to "best glide angle," the airplane cleared trees in its path; he deployed full flaps, and then landed "straight ahead" in a blueberry field.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine, multi-engine, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal aviation Administration (FAA) second class medical certificate was issued April 9, 2009.
The pilot reported 2,914 hours of total flight experience, and 2,274 hours in the accident airplane make and model.
According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1972, and had accrued 4,150 aircraft hours. The airplane’s most recent annual inspection was completed March 9, 2009, at 4,115 aircraft hours. The airplane's electric fuel boost pump was replaced on November 19, 2009, at 4,150 aircraft hours, immediately prior to the accident flight.
At 1554, the weather conditions reported at Atlantic City International Airport, located 14 nautical miles southeast of the accident site, included clear skies, visibility 10 miles, temperature 12 degrees Celsius (C), dewpoint 4 degrees C and an altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury. The wind was from 320 degrees at 4 knots.
The airplane was examined by an FAA inspector on November 21, 2009, during which he noted substantial damage to the fuselage and firewall. Examination of the engine revealed that the fuel injector filter screen was completely occluded by metal particles. The metal particles extracted from the screen appeared consistent with the worn impeller vanes of the electric fuel boost pump that was removed from the airplane 2 days prior to the accident. On December 12, 2009, the electric fuel boost pump was examined under the supervision of an FAA inspector. Examination revealed no anomalies, and no signs of abnormal wear.
The wreckage was then reexamined on December 16, 2009. Examination revealed that with the fuel selector in the "right tank" position, fuel would flow to the gascolator, but with the selector in the "left tank" position, fuel would not flow to the gascolator. The left fuel tank was removed from the airplane, and examination revealed that the fuel tank vent was "blocked." Compressed air was blown through the vent, the blockage was cleared, and the tank was reinstalled on the airplane. With the fuel selector in the "left tank" position, fuel flowed to the gascolator.
Examination of maintenance records revealed that both fuel tanks were removed on March 9, 2009, for "corrosion." According to the FAA inspector, there were "no reports of anomalies related to fuel flow prior to the accident."