These January 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Mooney 20J.
Location: Morristown, N.J.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened:The airplane was parked outside during the night before the accident flight. The temperature was below freezing and it was snowing.
Temperature at the time of departure was 34° Fahrenheit. The pilot cleared a significant amount of ice from the airplane during the preflight inspection.
Shortly after take off at an altitude of about 700 feet, the engine sputtered, then lost power. The pilot initiated a right turn back toward the airport, and attempted a forced landing on a taxiway. During the landing, the left main landing gear collapsed and the left wing hit the ground. The fuel tanks were full.
However, only a trace of fuel was observed in the fuel filter bowl. When the fuel tanks were sumped, fuel flow was observed to be lower than normal, although no water or ice was observed. After the airplane was thawed in a hangar overnight, fuel flow increased. When the engine was subsequently test run on the airframe, it started without hesitation and ran continuously at various power settings.
Probable cause: Ice in the fuel system, which resulted in restricted fuel flow and a subsequent loss of engine power.