NTSB Identification: SEA06LA057.
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Accident occurred Thursday, February 23, 2006 in Cottage Grove, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/03/2006
Aircraft: Mooney M20C, registration: N6595U
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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

The private pilot reported that prior to departure he accomplished a pre-flight check and reported that he visually inspected the fuel tanks and estimated that the left fuel tank had 15 gallons and the right fuel tank had about 12 gallons. The fuel quantity gages indicated that the right side was about 1/2 full and the left side was between 1/2 and 2/3 full. The pilot then stated that he checked the fuel selector and reported that the selector was positioned to the left fuel tank. The flight instructor then joined the private pilot and the flight took off. The pilot stated that the flight proceeded to another airport, and prior to landing, he confirmed that the fuel selector was on the left side, however in reality, the selector was positioned to the right side fuel tank. The flight then departed this airport to return to the originating airport. Upon arrival, the pilot set-up for a landing on runway 15, however, due to traffic on the runway, the pilot had to maneuver to runway 33. The pilot again confirmed that the fuel selector was on the left side, which was the fuller tank. He then entered the pattern and prepared for landing. While turning to base leg, the pilot noted that he was a little low and he applied power, however, the engine did not respond. The flight instructor told the pilot to turn toward the airport and to switch fuel tanks. The fuel selector is located on the floor on the pilot's side (left side). The pilot stated that he tried to turn the fuel selector but because of the position, he could not get a good grip on the handle. The flight instructor stated that he took control of the aircraft and realizing that they were not going to make the runway, began a gentle turn to the right toward a field. As the aircraft descended it collided with trees. During the wreckage recovery, it was noted that both fuel cells were intact. The left fuel tank contained about 8 gallons of fuel. The right fuel tank was empty. The fuel selector was found positioned to the right side fuel tank. After the wreckage was recovered, the engine and airframe were examined. Fuel was added to both wing fuel tanks and all lines and fittings were checked for leaks. None were found. An attempt was made to move the fuel selector to the left tank position. It was noted that the selector could only be moved by lifting the selector handle, and then with a very forceful hand manipulation the selector was moved. Further inspection noted that smooth transfer of the fuel selector valve was impeded by the round head Phillips retaining screws holding the fuel selector plate in place, instead of flush head type screws. It was also noted that the fuel selector handle has a long rectangle shaped handle with the opposite side being short and with a pointer. It is the short pointed end which depicts the position of the tank selected. After removing and replacing the damaged propeller with a new propeller, the engine started immediately and ran through a total RPM cycle. The fuel selector was moved from the right to the left fuel selector position, with no engine interruption noted. Recent maintenance had replaced the fuel selector.

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

Fuel starvation while on approach for landing resulting in a loss of engine power, and an inadequately accomplished annual inspection. Incorrect hardware which impeded the movement of the fuel selector valve, improper fuel management and not identifying the proper fuel selector position were factors.

Full narrative available

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