NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The private pilot was conducting a cross-country flight at a cruise altitude of 5,000 ft mean sea level (msl) in day visual meteorological conditions when the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power. Over the next minute, the airplane continued a northerly track before it began a turn to the west as the controller identified the closest public airport, private strip, state highway, and open areas for potential forced landing sites, which the pilot acknowledged. About 3 minutes later, the airplane collided with trees and terrain and was consumed by postcrash fire. All engine accessories were destroyed by fire and could not be examined except for the engine-driven fuel pump, which revealed no anomalies. The engine displayed internal and external thermal damage, but internally displayed signatures consistent with normal wear and lubrication. Tree damage at the site was consistent with a rotating propeller at the time of tree contact.
An NTSB performance specialist plotted potential glide ranges and trajectories for the airplane from the assumed point of engine power loss. About the time of the loss of engine power, the airplane was about 1 mile abeam an abandoned airport. This airport was not plotted on the visual flight rules sectional chart nor was it visible to the controller, and it may not have been readily visible to the pilot due to its location on the right side of the airplane. However, the airplane's projected glide distance and trajectories indicated that the airplane was within gliding distance of numerous open fields as well as a four-lane divided highway with a large grass median. It could not be determined why the pilot chose to forgo any of the potential suitable forced landing sites.