On December 14, 2009, about 1615 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-22-160, N9547D, experienced a loss of engine power during the initial climb from Reid-Hillview Airport, San Jose, California. The pilot, who was additionally the owner, was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight was originating from San Jose. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that he intended to depart from runway 13L and then practice a full stop landing on the same runway. Following the departure roll, the airplane climbed to about 600 feet above ground level (agl) and the engine experienced a loss of power. The pilot assessed that the airplane was about 3/4 down the runway with a heavily occupied road and shopping center immediately ahead. He opted to turn 180 degrees toward the run-up area for runway 31R. The airplane touched down on wet, muddy grass, and began to roll onto the asphalt run-up area where the pilot intended to land. Upon hitting the lip of the asphalt, the airplane nosed over.

The pilot further stated that he was unsure when the airplane was last refueled. He noted that during the preflight, he observed the fuel quantities to be as follows: the right tank was 1/3 full, the left tank was full, and the header (belly) tank was full; he departed with the left tank selected. He additionally stated that he thought the engine may have quit due to water contamination in the fuel system.

In the section titled "RECOMMENDATION" in the NTSB Pilot/Operator Report, form 6120.1, the pilot stated that although he had drained the fuel tanks for water prior to departure, the accident could have been prevented if he had followed this recommendation, "shake wing hard, wait 5-8 minutes, [and] check for water again."

On December 17, 2009, an airplane mechanic examined the wreckage under the auspice of several Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors. The complete report is contained in the public docket for this accident.

The mechanic stated that the fuel caps were present and the seals were noted to be deteriorated. The fuel tanks appeared to be intact, with no damage incurred. A sample from each tank disclosed that the right wing and center tank contained blue 100LL Avgas with a few small particles present. The left wing tank sample had a significant amount of water present with what appeared to be red dye. The mechanic opined that the red dye was residual from when plane was fueled with 80-octane that had dried on upper inside of tank.

The mechanic stated that he rocked the wings and sampled the tanks again. The right and center tanks were clear and the left tank sample contained more water (red in color). He repeated the rocking-sample procedure three more times, which all produced the same results. He noted that the tanks were rigid metal tanks, with no bladders installed.

The mechanic removed the gascolator bowl and found no contaminates present. He disassembled the carburetor and found no anomalies. Removal of the spark plugs revealed that they were in like-new condition all gapped to specifications and dark gray in color. He inspected the cylinder combustion chambers and noted normal wear and coloring

The mechanic found no anomalies with the airframe and engine with the exception of the water contamination in the left fuel tank. He opined that the left tank's lower tank panel had possibly bowed up causing water to be trapped around the sides of the tank.

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