On January 5, 2012, about 1030 central standard time, an experimental amateur-built Sanderson Pitts Special SPS-1, N330BL, experienced a total loss of engine power during cruise flight. The pilot subsequently made a forced landing on a road near Revere, Minnesota. The commercial pilot was uninjured. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wings and vertical stabilizer when the airplane nosed over and impacted terrain during the landing. The airplane was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. A flight plan had not been filed for the flight that originated from Madison Municipal Airport (MDS), South Dakota, at 1000 and was destined for Faribault Municipal Airport (FBL), Faribault, Minnesota. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot purchased the airplane, which had not flown for over six months, and was going to fly to MDS. Prior to departure, he drained the main fuel tank sump but was not able to check for fuel contamination present in the wing tank due to a lack of a fuel sump drain. The wing fuel tank drains into the main fuel tank. To top off the wing fuel tank, he added 3 gallons of fuel from the previous airplane owner's fuel tank. The main fuel tank was already full.
After about 20 minutes of flight, the pilot moved the auxiliary fuel selector to the open position to allow fuel from the wing fuel tank to flow into the main fuel tank. About 5 minutes later, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power. The pilot changed engine throttle control positions, and the engine surged and quit again. The pilot then performed a forced landing to a field.
Examination of the airplane by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed the presence of water in the fuel line leading to the carburetor. Fuel samples from the available fuel sumps did not show the presence of water.
The experimental amateur-built airplane was not certified nor was it required to be certified under 14 CFR Part 23, Airworthiness Standards for Normal, Utility, Acrobatic, and Commuter Category Airplanes. Part 23.971, Fuel Tank Sump, states in part:
(a) Each fuel tank must have a drainable sump with an effective capacity, in the normal ground and flight attitudes, of 0.25 percent of the tank capacity, or 1/16 gallon, whichever is greater.
(b) Each fuel tank must allow drainage of any hazardous quantity of water from any part of the tank to its sump with the airplane in the normal ground attitude.