While Over The Runway The Engine Began To “Cough/Sputter”

Location: College Park, MD Accident Number: ERA21LA170
Date & Time: April 3, 2021, 12:48 Local Registration: N2953L
Aircraft: Mooney M20C Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On April 3, 2021, about 1248 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20C, N2953L, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near College Park, Maryland. The private pilot was not injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations part 91 personal flight.

The pilot stated that previously they had found water in the fuel tanks, which necessitated him and the other co-owner replacing the o-rings of each fuel cap as part of preventative maintenance, and also purchasing covers to protect the fuel caps. When he arrived at the airport for his flight, the covers were not on the wings; they had been left off. During his preflight inspection he found a piece of orange paint in the sample of fuel taken from the right fuel tank and, “a bunch of water” in the left fuel tank. He sumped the left tank 5 times before he got all the water out of it. He then dried his collection tube and sumped the left tank twice more reporting the sample was clear with no water. He did not drain the selector valve sump drain as part of his inspection, and for safety concerns placed the fuel selector to the left tank where it remained the entire time.

After engine start he taxied to the approach end of the runway where he performed an engine run-up, which he reported was normal, though because the fuel pressure indication was too high with the auxiliary fuel pump on, he turned it off and it remained off for the takeoff. He then taxied onto the runway and initiated takeoff rotating at 83 mph. He then began to climb and while over the runway the engine began to “cough/sputter.” He looked to his left but continued straight ahead. The next thing he knew was a loud sound from ground contact. The airplane came to rest upright near the departure end of the runway.

A pilot-rated witness at the airport reported when the flight was about ½ way down the runway while still on the ground, he noted an engine problem first develop which he described as, “really running rough….” He clarified that the engine was rapidly losing power, running rough, and surging to higher rpm. He then noticed the elevator made a nose-up deflection after the abnormal engine sound occurred. Following recovery of the airplane from the runway, an examination of the fuel supply system revealed water in the flexible fuel hose from the firewall fitting to the engine-driven fuel pump inlet. About 5 ounces of fluid was drained from the carburetor bowl; it was about equal parts water and fuel.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov