On September 21, 1997, about 0945 Alaska daylight time, a tundra tire equipped Cessna 185E, N70122, crashed after takeoff from a private airstrip, about 4 miles northeast of Wasilla, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country ferry flight to Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska, when the accident occurred. The airplane, operated by the pilot, sustained substantial damage. The certificated private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on September 21, 1997, at 1130, the pilot reported the airplane's last annual inspection was July 29, 1988. The airplane had not been flown since 1989. The pilot was planning to ferry the airplane to Anchorage for maintenance from Anderson Lake Strip. The pilot did not obtain a ferry permit. Prior to takeoff, the pilot drained water from the fuel tanks, and added several gallons of fuel to each tank. He then sloshed the fuel around in each tank, drained them, and then added full fuel to each tank. The pilot then performed two separate engine run-ups, and did not encounter any engine problem.

The pilot departed the airstrip in an easterly direction and climbed to about 120 to 200 feet above the ground. The engine suddenly quit running, and the pilot selected an emergency landing area near a road. During the landing approach to the ground, the airplane collided with a power line and several trees. The right wing was torn from the fuselage.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector, Anchorage Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), inspected the airplane shortly after the accident, at the accident scene. He reported that a small amount of water was found in the left wing fuel drain, the header tank drain, and the gascolator drain.

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