CHI05LA138
CHI05LA138

On June 13, 2005, at 1202 central daylight time (cdt), a Mooney M20K, N231HX, piloted by a private pilot, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing following a loss of engine power. The airplane was attempting a precautionary landing to runway 12 (6,001 feet by 100 feet, asphalt), at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport (JEF), Jefferson City, Missouri, when the accident occurred. The 14 CFR Part 91 flight was being operated in visual meteorological conditions on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The pilot was not injured. The passenger received serious injuries. The flight originated from the McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), Knoxville, Tennessee, about 0815 cdt. The intended destination was the Kansas City International Airport, Kansas City, Missouri.

In a written report, the pilot stated that the airplane fuel tanks were filled prior to the accident flight. He stated that, although he closed the gascolator fuel drain from within the cockpit, he believed that the fuel drain remained open allowing approximately 30 gallons of fuel to be lost during the flight.

In a separate written statement, the pilot stated that he personally witnessed the fueling of the airplane and that his fuel burn during the flight was between 11 and 11.3 gallons per hour as indicated on the aircraft fuel flow meter. He stated that after departure from TYS he was initially assigned a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL). He stated that his altitude assignment was ultimately changed to 12,000 feet MSL about 30 to 40 miles after departure. He stated that during the flight he alternated fuel tank selection several times and that while burning fuel from the left tank, the engine stopped running. He stated that he switched to the right tank and the engine restarted. He stated that he had noticed that the fuel gauges had been indicating lower quantities than he expected. He stated that he did not see or smell any evidence of fuel leaking. He stated that he had been planning for alternate airports for about 30 to 45 minutes due to weather and fuel concerns. He stated that when the engine re-started, he diverted to JEF, which was about 5 to 6 miles northwest of his position. He stated that he planned to fly to the east end of the airport and circle to lose altitude and then land. He stated that when he turned onto final approach for runway 12, he was too high and executed a go-around. He stated that while turning to a left hand downwind leg of the traffic pattern, the engine again quit running. He stated that the airplane impacted the ground wings level with the landing gear in the down position.

A post accident examination of the airplane revealed no anomalies that could be associated with a pre-impact condition. The fuel tanks were found to be empty. No evidence of a fuel leak was found. The airplane came to rest in a bean field about 100 yards from the airport.

A fuel receipt was obtained that indicated that 14 gallons of fuel had been added prior to the accident flight.

Examination of excerpts from the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) showed that the best economy fuel burn for a 75% power setting at 12,000 feet altitude was 11.2 gallons per hour. The POH listed a total useable fuel capacity of 72 gallons. The fuel system is comprised of two wing fuel tanks that feed into a fuel selector valve and then to the engine through a gascolator. There are drains at the fuel tanks, and a drain at the gascolator. The gascolator drain is actuated remotely from within the cockpit.

The "Preflight Inspection" checklist from the POH listed in step one, "Fuel selector - R; pull gascolator ring (5 seconds)" and "Fuel selector - L; pull gascolator ring (5 seconds)." Step one of the checklist is followed by procedures for external examination of the airplane. According to a telephone conversation with a Technical support representative for the airframe manufacturer, a leak from the gascolator drain should be visible during the external examination.

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