On May 30, 2010, approximately 1500 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 172D, N2723U, registered to and operated by Adventure Leasing, was substantially damaged when it struck a chain link fence and impacted terrain following a partial loss of power shortly after taking off from Las Cruces International Airport (LRU), Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot was seriously injured and two passengers were uninjured. The local flight had just originated.

According to the pilot’s accident report, the pre-flight inspection, engine run-up, and takeoff were normal. At 450 feet altitude, the engine lost partial power. The pilot attempted to land in an area that had recently been used as a staging area for runway construction. The airplane touched down and went through a chain link fence before coming to rest against a sand berm and mesquite tree.

FAA inspectors examined the airplane on June 1, 2010, and the airplane was moved to a local hangar and secured. Throttle and the mixture controls were both full forward, and the flaps and flap handle were in the up position. There was very little water or contamination in fuel samples taken. This was the flight of the airplane since its annual inspection.

FAA inspectors received other reports of other partial power failures involving N2723U. Some of these failures were attributed to water in the fuel and others were unexplained. A review of the airplane’s maintenance records and pertinent Airworthiness Directives revealed anomalies with the airplane carburetor. The carburetor was retained by FAA .

On June 28, 2010, the engine was partially disassembled and examined. The top spark plugs showed signs of a rich mixture setting, and the pilot confirmed that he had moved the mixture to rich while troubleshooting the engine power loss. The number 5 cylinder exhaust valve was found to be stuck open. A clear, unidentified liquid was found in the fuel line. A significant amount of water was drained from the fuel system, mostly from the left tank. It was reported that the airplane had sat outside during the winter in several rain storms. Maintenance personnel reported a considerable amount of water was drained from the right fuel tank during the most recent annual inspection.

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