Poor spring preflight leaves chilling effect
Now that the weather is getting warmer, many pilots will be venturing back to the airport for the first time in several months. Not only should we as pilots assess whether we're ready to fly, but we should also give our aircraft extra attention during this first preflight of the season. Failing to do so could spell disaster.
On February 27, 2005, a Cessna 182P crashed shortly after takeoff from Greenwood Lake Airport in West Milford, New Jersey, killing the pilot and passenger.
On the day of the accident, the Cessna was moved into a hangar from its outdoor parking spot—where it had sat idle for six months—for about an hour to "deice" and for the preflight inspection. The pilot was seen rocking the wings and carrying a fuel sample cup.
After the preflight, the pilot performed a "lengthy" runup, and taxied onto Runway 6 for takeoff. About 500 feet down the runway, the Cessna lifted off and began climbing. At 200 feet, and a third of the way down the runway, witnesses saw a "puff of blackish" or "dark" smoke coming from the engine cowl. The airplane descended, touched down 20 feet from the end of the runway, became airborne again, and then sank out of view below the level of the runway.
The Cessna hit several trees, a power line, and then came to rest near a road 362 feet northeast of the end of the runway.
Weather at the time of the accident included variable winds at 3 knots, 10 miles visibility, clear skies, and a temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a dewpoint of 9 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the accident, a fuel sample was drained that appeared to be dull and cloudy with visible contamination. Fuel from the fuel strainer was tested, and the presence of water was found. When the fuel strainer bowl was removed, a large piece (2 inches by 1 inch) of ice with visible contaminates was attached to the filter assembly.
The pilot had a private pilot certificate and reported 600 hours of total time on a medical application that was completed one month prior to the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of the accident to be the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in a total loss of engine power during initial climb due to fuel ice.
The Cessna 182 owner's manual advises that before returning an aircraft to service after an extended non-operational period (longer than 90 days), "the fuel strainer should be checked, the filter screen should be removed and cleaned, and the fuel cells and fuel lines should be checked for moisture and sediment. Enough fuel should be drained to eliminate moisture and sediment."
Whenever an aircraft is stored outdoors for an extended period of time, extra care needs to be taken before its first flight to ensure the fuel is free of water and other contaminates.
For more information about getting yourself and your airplane back into flying condition this spring, visit the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Spring Preflight Safety Hotspot.
Accident reports can be found in ASF's accident database.
Return to the ePilot accident report main page.