On November 11, 2002, at 1130 Pacific standard time, a Mooney M20J, N1072N, experienced a loss of engine power during takeoff from runway 24, and executed a forced landing in an open field near the Fullerton Municipal Airport (FUL), Fullerton, California. The airplane was operated by the pilot/owner under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, and sustained substantial damage. The private pilot and one passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight was scheduled to terminate at the Brown Field Municipal Airport (SDM), San Diego, California.

According to the pilot's written statement, there were no discrepancies noted with the takeoff roll. During the climb out, he retracted the landing gear. As the landing gear came up, the engine "started to die." The pilot stated that there was not enough runway left to land on, so he aimed the airplane for a level field west of the departure end of the runway. The pilot indicated that as the airplane crossed over a fence and road he had to bank slightly to the right to keep from hitting the "understructure" for the runway lights on the airport. The right wing hit the ground first, and the airplane came to rest on its belly.

In a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge, the pilot stated that he had completed a preflight check prior to takeoff, which included checking the fuel. The pilot noted no discrepancies with the fuel or fuel system. According to the pilot, the last time the airplane was flown and refueled was approximately 1 week prior to the accident.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the airplane on scene. He found that the right fuel tank was full, and the left fuel tank held about 26 gallons. The fuel selector valve was observed in the off position. The inspector stated that he drained about 32 ounces of water from the right fuel tank sump. The fuel drained from the left fuel tank sump appeared blue in color with no trace of water contamination. He further indicated that water was found in the fuel distribution valve. The FAA inspector interviewed the pilot. The pilot stated he had selected the right fuel tank, the fullest tank, for takeoff.

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