On 22 September 2012, a Piper PA-32 aircraft, registered VH-FAJ, was being operated on a private flight had an engine failure, 3 minutes after changing the fuel selection to the right tip fuel tank. The pilot changed the fuel selection back and conducted a forced landing. During the forced landing, the aircraft impacted two fences and sustained serious damage. The pilot and passenger were uninjured.

The aircraft had been stored in a hanger for nine months prior to the accident. An inspection of the aircraft wreckage found evidence of water in the right tip tank and airframe fuel filter bowl.

While the pilot stated that he conducted a thorough pre-flight inspection he considered that it was possible that he did not notice the water in the right tip tank fuel sample.

It is important that the testing of fuel drainage samples for water contamination are positive in nature and do not rely exclusively on the sensory perceptions of colour and smell, both of which can be unreliable.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin – Issue 14