This November 2008 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Beech Bonanza. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor. Location: Coalinga, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was on the final leg of night cross-country flight. There was fog over the airport, so he elected to divert to an alternate airport equipped with an instrument approach. Shortly after, the engine lost power. The pilot altered his course to the nearest airport, and attempted to fix the problem using his emergency checklist. Despite numerous attempts, the engine would not restart. The pilot realized that he would not be able to make it to the airport, so he set up for an off-field landing with the flaps and landing gear retracted. The airplane landed hard in an open field.
After exiting the airplane, the pilot noticed a pool of clear liquid between the leading edge of the right wing and engine. He initially turned off the master switch. A few minutes later, he turned the master switch on in an effort to provide first responders with the GPS coordinates of their location and turned the master switch to the off position. First responders reported that thick fog in the area at the time of the accident hampered the search and rescue operation while locating the downed airplane. Following further conversation with first responders, the pilot turned the master switch back on, along with the airplane’s lights, to assist the first responders in locating the airplane. The pilot stated that about 30 minutes later, he observed fuel leaking from the right wing/engine area again, and turned the master switch off.
In a subsequent interview with the pilot, he stated that he was unsure if the liquid between the engine and right wing was fuel and mentioned that he did not have the best sense of smell. He recalled turning the electric fuel boost pump on but did not recall when or if he turned it to the off position.
Wreckage recovery personnel reported that prior to movement of the wreckage, about 30 gallons of fuel was removed from the left wing fuel tank and trace amounts of fuel from the right wing fuel tank
The engine was removed from the airframe and installed on a test stand. It was started and ran smoothly at an idle speed before the engine was shut down using the mixture control cutoff.
Probable cause: The loss of engine power while in climb to cruise flight for undetermined reasons.
For more information: NTSB.gov