According to the pilot, who was the owner of the Cessna 152, the plane had been parked for an extended period. He was preparing it for an annual inspection, which was nearly four years overdue.
On the day before the accident, he charged the airplane’s battery and ran the engine for about 30 minutes.
Before departing on the accident flight, he performed a preflight inspection, measured the level of fuel in each tank, sampled the fuel tanks and fuel strainer for contaminants, and ran the engine for about five to seven minutes with no anomalies noted.
He taxied the airplane for takeoff, performed the before-takeoff checks, and departed the airport in Winder, Georgia.
When the plane reached about 200′ above ground level, the engine “sputtered” and then stopped producing power.
He performed a forced landing to a field beyond the departure end of the runway, which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage and wings.
The left-wing fuel tank was breached by impact and contained no fuel. The right tank was intact and contained about eight gallons of fuel. The gascolator was drained, and the first four ounces were clear water. The remaining four ounces were a mixture of water and fuel.
The carburetor was separated from the engine at impact and was reattached with an adhesive to facilitate an engine operational check. An external fuel tank was then plumbed to the carburetor, and the engine was started on the airframe using the airplane’s own battery. The engine started immediately, accelerated smoothly, and ran continuously without interruption.
Had the pilot conducted an adequate preflight inspection, he would have likely detected the water contamination in the fuel system.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in undetected water in the fuel system and a total loss of engine power during the initial climb.
NTSB Identification: ERA17LA336
This September 2017 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.