On April 27, 2012, about 1032 Pacific daylight time, a Bellanca 17-30A, N80SV, sustained substantial damage to the wings during an off airport landing near Cloverdale, California. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant was uninjured. The airplane was registered to the pilot and operated as a personal cross country flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Cloverdale Municipal Airport (060), Cloverdale, California, about 1028.

The pilot reported that during the initial climb, at about 2,000 feet above the ground, he switched the fuel selector to the auxiliary fuel tank and the engine lost power. He applied full throttle and mixture control, and established a glide slope to return to the airport. The airplane’s sink rate was greater than he had expected and the airplane landed in a vineyard about ¼ of a mile short of the runway. During the landing sequence, the airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings.

During a post-accident examination of the engine by a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector, thumb compression was confirmed on all cylinders and spark was obtained from the magnetos. The magneto switch was also examined and no anomalies were noted. Fuel was visually noted in both main fuel tanks and the auxiliary fuel tank. The airplane’s master switch was turned on and the left main fuel tank gauge indicated slightly more than ¼ fuel remaining in the left main tank, the right main fuel tank gauge indicated slightly less than ¼ fuel remaining in the right main tank. The auxiliary fuel tank gauge indicated approximately ¼ fuel remaining in the tank.

In the performance section of the Bellanca Viking 17-30 Airplane Flight Manual, it states “Takeoff and land with fuel selector valve on main tank containing most fuel. Use fuel from auxiliary tanks in level flight only.”

In the limitations section of the Airplane Flight Manual, it states that a placard should be placed on the fuel selector valve which states: “Use aux tank in level flight only.” The FAA Inspector reported that this placard was present in the airplane; however, it was covered by the airplane’s sheepskin interior.

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