SEA06LA057
SEA06LA057

On February 23, 2006, about 1415 Pacific standard time, a Mooney M20C, N6595U, registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 instructional flight, experienced a loss of engine power while maneuvering for landing at Cottage Grove State, Cottage Grove, Oregon. During the emergency off airport landing, the aircraft collided with trees. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the certificated flight instructor and private pilot receiving instruction sustained minor injuries. The flight originated from Cottage Grove at 1345 with a stop at Creswell, Oregon, before returning to Cottage Grove.

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 about 1/2 a tank of fuel for the right side and between 1/2 and 2/3 of fuel in the left fuel tank. The pilot then stated that he checked the fuel selector and reported that the selector was positioned to the left fuel tank, however, in reality, the selector was positioned to the right side fuel tank. The flight instructor then joined the private pilot and the flight took off. The pilot stated that the flight proceeded to Creswell, and prior to landing, he confirmed that the fuel selector was on the left side. The flight then departed Creswell to return to Cottage Grove. Upon arrival to the Cottage Grove area, 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 the fuel quantity gage indicated was the fuller tank. He 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. He stated that he chose this field to allow any fuel in the left wing to be picked-up at the port and also allowed a turn to down wind for an extended glide. As the aircraft descended, it collided with trees.

During the wreckage recovery by personnel from HLM Air Services, 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 moved to HLM Air Services, Independence, Oregon, the engine and airframe were examined by an FAA Inspector from the Hillsboro, Oregon, Flight Standards District Office. 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 (see attached photo).

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.

Maintenance records indicated that on August 19, 2004, during an annual inspection, the fuel selector was replaced with a new selector from Mooney. Flush head type screws should have been used to secure the fuel selector instead of round head Phillips. Another annual inspection was completed on February 1, 2006. At the time of the accident, approximately 2.4 hours had been accumulated since the August 2004 inspection.

It was also noted, that the fuel selector handle has a long rectangle shaped handle with the opposite end being short and with a pointer (see attached photos). It is the short pointed end which depicts the position of the tank selected.

The pilot stated that he had just purchased this aircraft and was receiving instruction for the complex aircraft endorsement and for a 10-hour dual instruction insurance requirement. The private pilot had accumulated approximately 1.2 hours of flight time since the purchase of the aircraft.

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