NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The private pilot was conducting a flight from New Mexico to California in the single engine airplane. About 35 miles short of his destination, in day visual meteorological conditions, the pilot reported that the engine experienced a power problem, and he then attempted to land at a nearby airport. The airport attendant reported hearing the pilot announce over the common traffic advisory frequency that the airplane had experienced a "massive power failure." He saw the airplane on the right downwind leg of the traffic pattern, and again on final, and both times he thought that it was positioned for a normal landing. Shortly thereafter, he saw a cloud of dust near the end of the runway. The airplane touched down about 180 ft short of the runway and sustained substantial damage.
The pilot was initially detained by law enforcement personnel, and subsequently incarcerated for reasons unrelated to the accident, which prevented him from being interviewed by investigation personnel. As a result, the exact nature of the engine power loss, the location and altitude of the airplane when the power loss occurred, and the pilot's actions subsequent to the power loss were all unable to be determined.
Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded continued flight. The right fuel tank contained sufficient fuel for continued flight, but the left fuel tank was empty. A lack of fuel in a segment of the airplane fuel system downstream of the fuel selector valve was consistent with fuel starvation. However, the fuel selector valve was found in the OFF position, and the investigation was unable to determine when, or by whom, the valve was placed in that position.
Despite the fact that the pilot experienced some degree of engine power loss, he opted to fly a normal traffic pattern, instead of a more direct approach that would better ensure a landing on the runway. As a result, the airplane touched down short of the runway. The short landing demonstrated that the approach was not conducted in accordance with FAA guidance to allow sufficient margin to enable corrections for errors on final approach during an emergency landing. Although the investigation was unable to determine the specific reasons for the short landing, the underlying cause was improper energy management by the pilot during the approach; the pilot's execution of an apparently normal traffic pattern, in combination with the strong headwinds on the final approach leg, left the airplane with insufficient energy to reach the runway.