Fuel contamination brings down twin

This February 2010 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: Piper Twin Comanche. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Amarillo, Texas. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: According to witnesses, the airplane took off and was at an altitude of 900 feet AGL when it turned as if to return for landing. The airplane did not make it back to the runway; instead it crashed into a warehouse near the airport.

The post-accident examination revealed water in the fuel recovered from both the left and right engine fuel systems. Both auxiliary fuel tank caps could be removed without releasing the expansion tab and the left main fuel tank cap could be removed without unscrewing the release mechanism, indicative that the caps were loose and worn. The airplane had been exposed to accumulating snow the week before the accident.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to detect water contaminated fuel, which resulted in a loss of engine power shortly after takeoff. Contributing to the accident were the worn and loose fuel caps, which allowed water to enter the fuel tanks.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: CEN10FA122



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    • 'Dutch' says

      I too owned a PA-30 for 14 years. Most of its life with me was in the hangar. I did note while away from home and parked outside I always seem to have water in the tanks, especially after it rained! I took the time to ensure all the water was removed by rocking the wings from side to side and rechecking the drains a second or even a third time. Several times, in freezing conditions. The drains were frozen, due to water. I remember that even with checking and having the caps checked and repaired  by mechanics, it was a problem. With freezing, and known water in the tanks, the plane had to be towed to a heated hangar. Sure enough, once the drains would work, water was found, and drained out. One day I lost the left engine at 300 feet. It was a challenge, but did land OK, thanks to having lots of extra speed after take off. I remember getting to 600 AGL while going to Vyse with a lot of rudder. It was at a tower airport and declared an emergency immediately. I managed a tight downwind. I reduced power on the right engine and dropped the gear. I had to power up the right engine to full power, and barely made the edge of the runway. It took lots of rudder, to say the least! Safe landing. High altitude single engine training in the TC is needed and should be manditory. I was a Naval Trained Aviator, and have found myself upside down with an instructor in the TC. We were plenty high and in a spin. Lessons learned . I loved the Twin Comanche, but had a lot of respect for it. Maintain thine airspeed…Dutch

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