This was the first flight for the Piper PA24-250 in the last three months, during which time, it was parked on a ramp outside in the winter in San Jose, Calif.
The pilot reported he performed a preflight inspection, but that he did not sump the fuel system.
The main fuel tanks were full, and the fuel selector valves were set to the main fuel tanks.
Shortly after takeoff at an altitude of about 300 to 400 feet above ground level, the engine began to “sputter” with a corresponding partial loss of power. The pilot cycled the throttle control with no change in engine power and then turned back toward the airport.
The plane did not have sufficient altitude to reach a runway, so the pilot performed a gear-up landing onto a taxiway. After landing, the plane slid across the taxiway and hit a taxiing Cessna airplane. Both planes sustained substantial damage.
Post-accident examination of the engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation, and it started and ran smoothly during a subsequent test run.
Given the pilot’s failure to sump the fuel system and the fact that the engine did not experience a total loss of engine power, it is likely that the fuel system became contaminated with water while the airplane sat on the ramp for the preceding three months.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to sump the fuel tanks, which resulted in water contamination, a partial loss of engine power during takeoff, and collision with a taxiing airplane during the subsequent forced landing.
NTSB Identification: WPR14LA099A
This January 2014 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.