Shortly after takeoff from the airport in West Kingston, Rhode Island, the pilot noted a decrease in engine performance during initial climb out. He also noticed the Ercoupe F-1 was unable to climb or maintain altitude.
After unsuccessfully attempting to troubleshoot the issue, he performed a forced landing in a field covered in solar panels. During the landing the airplane struck several of the solar panels, resulting in substantial damage to both wings and the fuselage. The pilot sustained minor injuries in the crash.
Post-accident examination of the engine and fuel system revealed the presence of water and other contaminates in the gascolator, carburetor bowl, carburetor inlet screen, and engine-driven fuel pump.
The examination did not discover evidence of any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
The pilot told investigators that while he performed his preflight inspection, which included sampling fuel from the airplane’s header fuel tank, he historically always had difficulty with water in the fuel, specifically from the header tank and gascolator.
Given this information it is likely that the partial loss of engine power during the climb was due to contamination of the engine’s fuel supply with water and debris.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s failure to conduct a proper preflight inspection and ensure the fuel was uncontaminated, which resulted in a partial loss of engine power and forced landing.
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This September 2020 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.