On April 4, 1997, about 1120 eastern standard time, a Chance Vought F4U , registered to L Clark Hill Trustee, operated by Collings Children's Trust, as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight experienced a total loss of engine power, and ditched in the water adjacent to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The commercial pilot was not injured. The flight originated from New Smyrna Beach about 50 minutes before the accident.

The pilot stated during the preflight inspection of the airplane that the fuel gages indicated that he had 120 gallons of fuel. In addition he visually checked the fuel tank and observed fuel, however he did not stick the fuel tank. He departed a short time later and was flying over the water at 3,500 feet. Another person in a T6 airplane was taking photos of his airplane. The engine started sputtering. He confirmed the fuel selector was on, boost pump was on high, mixture was full rich, and that the magnetos were on both. The engine continued to sputter. He informed the other pilot that he was returning to the airport. About 20 seconds later, the engine quit. He declared an emergency and made a forced landing to the water next to a boat. He exited the airplane unassisted, and was picked up by personnel on the boat. The passenger in the T6 airplane stated he did not observe the F4U airplane venting any fuel as they were flying.

The airplane was recovered from the water 9 days after the accident. Examination of the airframe, flight control assembly, engine assembly and accessories revealed no evidence of a precrash mechanical failure or malfunction. Examination of the fuel tank revealed the fuel tank was not ruptured. The fuel cap was removed and there was an odor of fuel in the fuel tank. No fuel was present in the fuel tank. A small puddle of water (coffee cup size) was present near the rear of the fuel tank. The C-4 fuel strainer was opened and the fuel filter was removed. The strainer contained blue colored AVGAS and about 20 to 30cc of water. The main carburetor main fuel screen was removed and contained about 10cc of colored AVGAS. The main fuel line was removed from the discharge side of the engine driven fuel line. About 20cc of blue fuel and about 20cc of water was present.

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