The pilot reported that, during the preflight inspection, in preparation for the local flight to accomplish three touch-and-go landings, he removed the Mooney M20’s fuel filler caps and visually confirmed what appeared to be an adequate amount of fuel in each tank.
He did not use the fuel dip stick to confirm the quantity.
According to the pilot, the fuel selector was selected to the right-side fuel tank before departure.
After the second takeoff, about 600′ above ground level (agl) and just before turning crosswind, the engine surged once or twice and then experienced a total loss of engine power.
The pilot checked the engine controls and turned left back toward the runway at the airport in Tucson, Arizona.
About 300′ agl, he switched the fuel selector to the left fuel tank.
Seconds later, the engine regained power. However, the airplane had descended low enough that it hit the tops of mesquite brush and then the ground. The fuselage was substantially damaged.
Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed that the right fuel tank was empty and that the left fuel tank contained about 10 gallons of fuel. There was no evidence of a breach or fuel leak.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate preflight and in-flight fuel management, which resulted in an intermittent loss of engine power due to fuel starvation.
NTSB Identification: GAA18CA059
This November 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.