September 8, 2008, Hackettstown, N.J., Mooney M20J


The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1630 Eastern time during an emergency landing immediately after takeoff. The pilot, the sole occupant, was uninjured. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to the pilot, all three fuel drains were activated prior to the days first flight. No water was observed in the fuel samples from the two wing tanks. The pilot did not capture the contents when he drained the gascolator, since it is activated from the cockpit.

After two uneventful flights, the pilot pumped approximately 21 gallons of fuel from a self-service facility into the right wing tank. The pilot sampled fuel from the right tank drain, and did not observe any water. He also activated the cockpit control to drain the gascolator, but again did not capture the sample.

During the ensuing takeoff roll, the engine was feeding from the right tank. The takeoff roll and initial climb were normal, but when the airplane reached approximately 25 feet agl, the engine “quit dead.” The pilot turned left to land on a crossing runway did not have sufficient altitude or airspeed to complete the turn. He leveled the wings, touching down on grass, and applied “heavy braking” but the airplane impacted and was stopped by trees and shrubs, sustaining impact damage.

After the accident, the pilot sampled the fuel using the drains from the two wing tanks and the gascolator. Using a “16-ounce Coke bottle,” he captured approximately “one to one and a half” inches of water from the gascolator. He obtained two fuel drain cups of water from the right tank; the fuel drain cup measured approximately two inches high by one and a half inches in diameter. The pilot did not obtain any water from the left tank.


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