Contaminated contributes to crash

This June 2007 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: Cessna Cardinal RG.
Location: Pedricktown, N.J.
Injuries: None.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: An ATP and a private pilot were flying the Cardinal, which the private pilot had just bought. The accident occurred as the pair were ferrying the airplane to the private pilot’s home airport. According to the ATP, both of the airplane’s wing-mounted fuel tanks were filled to capacity just before departure. During the preflight inspection, he obtained fuel samples from the airplane’s fuel sump drain ports, and none of the fuel samples contained any contaminates or water. The private pilot was flying the airplane when, just after takeoff about 500 feet AGL, all engine power was lost. The ATP took control of the airplane in an attempt to re-establish engine power, but his attempts were unsuccessful, and he selected an open field as a forced landing site. During the emergency landing the plane collided with rough and uneven terrain, and sustained substantial damage to the wings, fuselage, and empennage.

An FAA inspector who examined the airplane at the accident scene reported that he drained about four ounces of water from the airplane’s left fuel tank and gascolator. He said that the gascolator contained a sandy, gritty white substance. The fuel injector screen also contained trace amounts of rusty-colored water. The engine was subsequently started and it produced full power. During the investigation it was determined that the airplane had been stored outside, and that heavy rains had been reported in the area two or three days before the accident.

Probable cause: Water contamination of the fuel system that was not caught during the preflight inspection.

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