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Fri, Jan 10, 2003

Bummer Checkride

Tried to Fly a (Temporarily) Steam-Powered Mooney. Didn't Succeed.

This fellow hadn't experienced troubles like this before, so he didn't check... and so he had the trouble. The UK's AAIB donated this nugget of insight to the aviation community:

The owner of the aircraft [a 1989 Mooney M-20J (file photo)] was undergoing a Licence Proficiency Check. He had completed the external checks and was then joined in the aircraft by the examiner, who was the legal commander of the aircraft. The owner indicated to the examiner that the external checks had been completed satisfactorily. After engine start, the aircraft, with the owner as the handling pilot, was taxied to the holding point for Runway 24 and the power checks were completed with no indication either on the engine instruments or aurally of any malfunction. After completing the pre-takeoff vital actions, the takeoff run was commenced with the engine instruments indicating that the engine was developing full power and with the aircraft accelerating normally.

After takeoff, at a height estimated by the examiner to be approximately 100 to 150 feet agl, the engine suffered a sudden very severe power loss. Prior to the power loss there were no other symptoms, such as rough running or misfiring. The aircraft pitch was adjusted to adopt the ideal glide attitude and to maintain a safe airspeed. With the owner continuing to act as the handling pilot, the appropriate actions for an engine failure after takeoff were carried out. The examiner transmitted a truncated ‘Mayday’ call... There was no fire. The aircraft was secured and the two pilots exited without difficulty.

...both tanks were found to be full of fuel. The fuel line between the engine driven fuel pump and the fuel injector was disconnected and a large quantity of water was drained out.

The aircraft had been parked in the open at Fairoaks for a number of months. On 1 May 2002, it had been flown by the examiner from Fairoaks to Bournemouth; a flight time of 45 minutes. 95 litres of Avgas 100LL had been uplifted the same day. On 10 May 2002, it was flown back to Fairoaks. On 19 June, a local flight of one hour duration was made without incident. On the day of the accident, the owner had made a telephone call to the airfield, asking that G-MUNI be refuelled. 166 litres of Avgas 100LL was uplifted, and this appeared to fill the tanks to capacity (32 USG per tank). On the same day there was a period of very heavy rainfall. [The accident occurred July 6 --ed.] Over this whole period the aircraft had been parked in the open...

The aircraft has fuel drains in each tank and the gascolator. The latter is operated by a pull ring inside the cockpit, located under the front edge of the left front seat. This drain operating ring is not readily visible when the seat is not fully aft. From the gascolator, the fuel passes to an electric fuel pump and then to the engine driven fuel pump.

The design of the gascolator fuel drain, in common with similar systems on some other light aircraft, is such that it is difficult to check without assistance. If alone, the pilot must enter the cockpit to operate the drain and ideally place a suitably bonded container beneath the drain to collect the fluid. The pilot would then have to wait for the contents to settle before being able to positively identify whether it was fuel, water, or a mixture of both. Being centrally placed, this drain is the lowest of the three fuel drains, however it is also the easiest to overlook.

The owner stated that he had carefully carried out checks of the wing drains, as these are at the lowest point of the tanks and would therefore provide the first indication of any water in the system. The fuel system draws fuel from the tanks slightly above this level, to avoid drawing any small quantities of water into the fuel lines. The owner normally checked the gascolator drain every other flight or so, because it was both difficult and unlikely, in his opinion, to contain water if the tank drains were clear of water. He had owned the aircraft since 1993 and over that time, had rarely found evidence of water in the fuel system drains, and then only in minute quantities. [Note: the report says this pilot had "7,240 hours (of which 10 were on type)," yet it also says he owned the aircraft since 1993 --ed.]

FMI: http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/bulletin/jan03/gmuni.htm

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