On 2 June 2013, the pilot of a Mooney M20J aircraft, registered VH‑NFP (NFP), conducted his pre-flight checks at Canberra Airport, Australian Capital Territory for a private flight to Albury, New South Wales under visual flight rules.

As it had rained at Canberra Airport earlier in the morning, the pilot paid particular attention to conducting pre-flight fuel drains and checking for water, with none found.

During the take-off run, at about 1038 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot reported that all cockpit indications were normal, the aircraft obtained full power and achieved the expected rotate speed followed by a positive rate of climb.

The pilot retracted the landing gear at about 100 ft above ground level. Within seconds of retracting the gear, the engine stopped. The aircraft descended and landed on the runway heavily on the left wing and landing gear, with the propeller striking the ground. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the pilot suffered minor injuries.

An inspection of the engine after the accident revealed water in the left tank, fuel system and fuel injector lines. The pilot reported that he contacted the Mooney Service Centre and was advised that incorrect re-sealing of the M20 series aircraft fuel tanks could allow 1 to 2 litres of water to be retained in the wing, which could not be drained.

This accident highlights the importance of currency in emergency procedures training. A pre-take-off safety briefing can remind the pilot of the procedure in event of an engine failure at low altitude. Controlling the aircraft at low altitude and maintaining airspeed can reduce the severity of these incidents.


 Aviation Short investigation Bulletin Issue 22