On January 25, 2010, about 1521 Pacific standard time, a Czech Aircraft Works Sportcruiser airplane, N243SC, was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power in cruise flight near La Quinta, California. The airplane was registered to Desert West Aviation, Palm Springs, California, and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The airline transport pilot and pilot-rated passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local flight. The flight originated from the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), Palm Springs, California, about 1400.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that prior to the flight; he conducted a pre flight inspection on the airplane. The pilot stated that upon completion of the preflight inspection, he had the airplane refueled with 100-low lead aviation fuel. Following the refueling, the pilot "drained all [airframe fuel] sumps" and noted "no evidence of water." The pilot further stated that after an uneventful departure, he flew to the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (TRM) and performed 4 or 5 touch-and-go landings before returning to PSP. While returning to PSP, he noticed that the fuel levels were uneven and decided to switch from the right fuel tank to the left fuel tank with the fuel boost pump in the "ON" position. The pilot noted that the engine lost power less than one minute after switching fuel tanks.

The pilot further reported that he immediately switched the fuel selector back to the right fuel tank and conducted items on the emergency checklist. Despite multiple attempts, he was unable to restart the engine. The pilot stated that he initially selected an open field that was suitable for landing, but realized that he would be unable to make it due to a headwind. He then located a second field adjacent to his position, and initiated a forced landing. The pilot said that he “…got as low as I could then stalled it [the airplane] in." Subsequently, the airplane landed hard in the open field and came to rest upright.

Examination of the airplane by first responders revealed that the left wing and fuselage were structurally damaged. The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

A post accident examination of the airframe by the Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) revealed that the left and right wings were separated from the fuselage by wreckage recovery personnel to facilitate wreckage transport. The airframe fuel sump drain was removed, and various dirt debris and rust was observed within the airframe fuel sump bowl. Both the left and right wings were intact and exhibited bending and buckling throughout. The left wing fuel tank was displaced from the wing structure and the right wing fuel tank remained attached. The left and right wing fuel tank vent lines and both wing fuel outlet ports were clear of debris, and the left and right wing fuel caps were intact and undamaged. The fuel selector was observed in the “OFF” position. Continuity was established between the left, right, and off positions of the fuel selector. As air was applied to both the left and right wing fuel inlet lines, a small amount of liquid was observed originating from the engine inlet fuel line at the firewall. Water finding paste was applied to this area when air pressure was applied to both the left and right fuel lines. The water finding paste exhibited signatures consistent with positive results for water. The airframe electrical fuel boost pump was removed from the firewall. The inlet port of the fuel pump was submerged in water. Power was applied to the fuel pump, and water was observed expelling from the outlet port with no anomalies noted.

The Rotax 912 engine was removed from the airframe and subsequently shipped to the facilities of Rotech Research Canada LTD, Vernon, British Columbia, for further examination. The engine was examined at their facilities on May 25, 2010, under the supervision of the Safety Board IIC. Examination of the engine revealed that it was intact and visually appeared to be undamaged with the exception of the oil filter, which was displaced from the engine. All engine accessories remained attached to the engine and appeared to be undamaged.

The engine-driven fuel pump was intact and removed from the engine. Residual liquid, brown in color and containing a large amount of debris, was removed from the inlet side of the fuel pump. The liquid originating from the outlet port was clear in color and free of debris. The liquid removed from the fuel pump was tested using water finding paste and exhibited positive results for water.

Both carburetors were intact and undamaged. Debris was noted within the venturi areas of both carburetors. Upon disassembly of both carburetors, a white paste-like and flaky substance was noted within both the cylinder one/three side and two/four side carburetor float bowls. The cylinder two/four side carburetor float bowl contained about two ounces of a milky white liquid. The liquid was removed from the carburetor float bowl and placed in a sterile container. The liquid was tested using water finding paste with positive results for water noted.

The engine was installed on an engine test stand with slave connections for fuel and oil. The engine was primed, successfully started, and ran semi-rough for about 30 to 45 seconds, then smoothed out. The engine was run at various RPM settings for about 3 minutes before it was manually shut down using the mixture control.

No additional anomalies were found with the engine or airframe that would have precluded normal operation and the production of power.

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