NTSB Identification: MIA00LA044.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, December 08, 1999 in ST. ELMO, AL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2001
Aircraft: American AA-5, registration: N5864L
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 Uninjured.

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

During preflight, slight amount of water noted in right wing and sump tanks. No water noted in left wing or sump tanks. Engine start/run-up, uneventful. After takeoff about 300 feet agl near the departure end of the runway, the engine began to 'sputter.' Attempts to restore engine power were unsuccessful. While maneuvering for a forced landing, the airplane pitched nose down and impacted a cotton field. Water was found in the carburetor bowl. An incorrect fuel drain valve by part number and design was installed in the right wing fuel tank; no determination made when the valve was installed. Testing on a same make and model airplane using an exemplar of the fuel drain valve found installed in the right fuel tank revealed .99 pound of fuel remained in the tank and could not be drained. All fuel could be drained with the airplane manufacturer specified drain valve installed. The airplane sat for a couple of months before the accident date with the right tank not topped; the left tank was full. The airplane was out of annual inspection. Additionally, the pilot's medical certificate was expired, and he could not produce the date of his last biennial flight review.

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

The failure of the pilot to maintain airspeed resulting in the in-flight loss of control while maneuvering for a forced landing in a field after the loss of engine power. Contributing factors were the loss of engine power due to water-contaminated fuel.

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