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Pilots and operators need to inspect and maintain fuel cap seals

  • An inspection of the aircraft wreckage found evidence of water in the right tip tank and airframe fuel filter bowl.
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Pilots and operators need to inspect and maintain fuel cap seals to prevent the ingress of water into fuel tanks.

On September 2012, a Piper PA-32 was being operated on a private scenic flight near Yea, Victoria. About 5 minutes after departing, at about 1,000 feet above ground level, the pilot changed the fuel selection from the left main tank to the right tip tank. About 3 minutes later, when at about 800 ft the engine failed. The pilot changed the fuel selector back to the left main tank and placed the fuel mixture and throttle control full forward but the engine did not respond. As a result, the pilot elected to conduct a forced landing.

The deterioration of fuel cap seals can allow the ingress of water into fuel tanks.

The pilot moved the throttle to the idle position and prepared for landing. During the landing the pilot noted that the engine power had been restored. The aircraft subsequently impacted two fences and sustained substantial damage.

Subsequent inspections found water contamination in the fuel tanks. Prior to the flight, the aircraft had been sitting idle for several months, fully fuelled, in a hangar. The pilot reported that he had washed the aircraft several months earlier and speculated that water may have entered the tank through the fuel cap.

The deterioration of fuel cap seals can allow the ingress of water into fuel tanks. CASA Airworthiness Bulletin (AWB 28-008) Water contamination of fuel because of failure of fuel filler cap contains information on inspecting fuel filler and caps and conducting pre-flight inspections of fuel filler/caps and fuel samples.

Read the investigation report, AO-2012-125.

 
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Last update 17 January 2013