This October 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: Cessna 172. Injuries: 2 Minor. Location: Coolidge, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The airplane had just taken off. When it was approximately 300 feet above ground the engine lost power. The pilot attempted to restart the engine while turning back to the runway. The airplane came down short of the departure runway.
During the subsequent examination of the airplane, the FAA inspector reported finding “copious amounts of water” in the fuel strainer and carburetor. Also, several maintenance-related discrepancies were observed, including frayed electrical cords in the cockpit, missing placards, a finger-tight fuel line, and hornets’ nests in the empennage and the horizontal stabilizer. The pilot, who held a commercial pilot certificate as well as an A&P certificate, maintained the airplane.
Probable cause: A total loss of engine power due to water contamination of the fuel system. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection.
For more information: NTSB.gov