NTSB Identification: ATL04CA191.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, September 22, 2004 in Lancaster, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/03/2004
Aircraft: Pinkham Challenger II, registration: N2079S
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot stated he was at the 2,000 feet, 3 miles north of Lancaster, South Carolina, when the engine had a partial loss of engine power. The engine rpm decreased to 3,800 rpm. The pilot turned on the auxiliary boost pump, the rpm increased, and decreased back to 3,800 rpm. The pilot pulled the choke out, the rpm increased, and decreased back to 3,800 rpm. The pilot stated, "I suspected fuel was not getting through the fuel line." The pilot made an emergency landing into a small field. The pilot stated, 'I misjudged my altitude during the approach and the right wing collided with a tree. The airplane turned to the right, the nose pitched down, and the airplane collided with the ground." Examination of the fuel system revealed the fuel tank was not ruptured. Water was present in the fuel filter and fuel supply line going from the main fuel tank to the engine. The fuel tank had a 5/16 inch hole drilled in the top of the main fuel tank covered by a piece of tape that was no longer sealing the hole. The tank contained 8 gallons of dark greenish looking fuel. "The fuel appeared to be a mixture of auto gas and avgas." The main fuel tank was removed and drained. Water was present in the fuel tank. The fuel tank had a low point bowl molded into it for water collection, however, there was no drain installed in order to sump the fuel tank. An examination of the kit instructions for the airplane showed the drawings indicated that a fuel sump drain was to be installed in the low point of the main fuel tank. The pilot and manufacturer stated he did not want to cut a hole in the bottom of the fuselage in the fabric to accommodate a drain.

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

A partial loss of engine power in-flight due to water ingestion and his misjudgment of obstacle clearance resulting in a collision with trees and the ground. A factor in the accident was the pilot's failure to follow the manufactures instructions for installing a sump drain in the fuel system during construction of the airplane.

Full narrative available

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