NTSB Identification: SEA98IA044.
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Incident occurred Wednesday, March 11, 1998 in KLAMATH FALLS, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/10/2000
Aircraft: Mooney M20K, registration: N3556H
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various sources and may not have traveled in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft incident report.

The pilot reported that the aircraft was parked outdoors during the winter months, and it was not flown much. He flew the airplane 3 days prior to the accident flight. During that preflight he reported, 'a puddle of water (smell & taste tested) under the aircraft low point - unusual because the tarmac was dry.' He 'drained the fuel lines using the gascolator without testing, but tested all four tanks.' He stated that the right tanks tested fine but he found 'an estimated total of a gallon of water from the two left tanks.' The flight with a fuel stop was uneventful. On the day of the accident, he pre-flighted the aircraft and 'drained about 1/2 cup of water from the left side'. The first leg of the trip was flown at 12,000 feet MSL, and he refueled. The aircraft then departed, and the flight was cleared to climb to flight level 240. He reported the outside air temperature as -27 degrees Celsius. Shortly thereafter, he noticed a little engine roughness. He executed a number of trouble shooting procedures attempting to correct the problem without success. Approximately 5-7 miles from the airport the engine ceased developing power. He then executed a forced landing under dark night conditions to an unlighted landing site. He stated that 'in the end, I just descended into total blackness.' Examination of the airplane after the accident by an FAA Inspector revealed several ounces of water drained from the left wing tank. No anomalies were noted that would have precluded operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be:

The pilot's inadequate preflight which failed to detect water contaminated fuel that subsequently led to fuel icing at altitude, blockage of fuel lines which resulted in fuel starvation. A related factor was the dark night conditions.

Full narrative available

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