On December 27, 2011, about 1530 Pacific standard time (PST), a Ryan Navion, N4398K, experienced a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff from Buchanan Field Airport, Concord, California. The airplane subsequently landed hard on airport property and was substantially damaged. The owner/pilot was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot and passenger were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

Witnesses reported that during takeoff from runway 32R, the airplane was about 250-300 feet above the runway when the engine sounded like it had lost power. The airplane was observed making a banking left turn as it descended toward the parallel runway 14R.

The pilot reported that during takeoff as the airplane approached the departure end of runway 32R, the engine quit without warning. He knew that at his current altitude a safe return to the runway was unlikely. He made a left turn away from the busy highway in front of him, and then realized he was headed towards a hangar and made another left turn with added left rudder to avoid the hangar. The pilot lost control of the airplane as it descended to the ground.

The airplane hit the ground in a flat, wings level attitude, and slid approximately 100 feet before coming to rest in the dirt area near the approach end of runway 14R.


Investigators examined the wreckage at National Aviation Logistics, Madera, California, on January 11, 2012.

The airframe and engine were examined with no mechanical anomalies identified that would have precluded normal operation. A detailed examination report with accompanying pictures is contained in the public docket for this accident.

The fuel system for the Ryan Navion consists of two aluminum alloy fuel tanks, holding approximately 20 gallons each. An accumulator tank, mounted between the two tanks in the center of the fuselage and interconnected with each, has a capacity of approximately 3/4 gallon. Fuel from both main tanks is gravity fed into the accumulator. From the accumulator, fuel is supplied to the carburetor by an engine driven pump. An emergency electric fuel pump is provided supplying 12 pounds (lbs) fuel pressure for use on takeoff and landing, and in the event of an engine driven fuel pump failure.

Examination of the fuel system revealed that the fuel removed from the wing tanks was blue in color, with no sediment or contamination noted. The fuel sample obtained from the fuel line to the carburetor inlet screen was light blue and contained debris. The fuel sample from the accumulator sump was brown in color and had debris; it tested positive for water.

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