Water found in crashed plane’s fuel

Water found in crashed plane’s fuel

THE fuel of an aeroplane that crashed shortly after take-off from the Bagani airstrip in late 2005 was contaminated with water, according to an official report on the cause of the incident.

The crash in which the 29-year-old pilot of a Cessna 182P aircraft and two passengers were seriously injured on November 27 2005 was caused by contaminated fuel which resulted in engine failure, aircraft accident investigator Ericsson Nengola concluded in his report this week. Pilot Abe van der Merwe and his two passengers, Felicity Swart and Annelise Pienaar, took off from the Bagani airstrip en route to Eros Airport in Windhoek early on the morning of November 27 2005.Their aircraft had ascended only some 100 feet above ground level when a loud bang was heard from its engine, which shuddered to a halt, Nengola relates in his report.Van der Merwe executed an emergency landing in a clearing in the thickly wooded area surrounding the airfield, but back on the ground the aircraft struck an anthill and flipped over before it came to a standstill.An examination of the aeroplane’s engine later found signs that there had been water in the engine.An analysis of a fuel sample taken from the aircraft’s fuel tanks also established that there had been water present in the fuel, the report shows.Van der Merwe had carried out the usual checks, including a fuel drain, to see if there was any water in the fuel, but found no traces of water before he proceeded with the ill-fated take-off, the report indicates.The aircraft had flown from Eros Airport to Katima Mulilo on November 25 2005, Nengola relates.At Katima Mulilo, the pilot took on about 160 litres of aviation fuel before flying on to Bagani.There, the pilot put some 50 litres of fuel into the aircraft’s tanks.It was a sunny day with no rain.He did not use a fuel filter during the refuelling, the report states.During the night before the crash, it rained heavily at Bagani.This may have been a natural event that sealed the aircraft’s fate.Under the heading ‘Contributing Factor’ in a summary of the report, it is stated: “Since it had rained heavily in the area the previous night, water moisture might have leaked into the fuel tank and during taxi for take-off, it migrated through the fuel system into the engine.”Once it had reached the engine, the water caused “total engine failure”, according to the report.The manufacturers of the aircraft, Cessna Aircraft Company, in 1988 already issued an airworthiness directive in which it advised that a set of checks should be done on this type of plane to prevent engine stoppage due to water contamination of the fuel system, it is pointed out in the report.Pilot Abe van der Merwe and his two passengers, Felicity Swart and Annelise Pienaar, took off from the Bagani airstrip en route to Eros Airport in Windhoek early on the morning of November 27 2005.Their aircraft had ascended only some 100 feet above ground level when a loud bang was heard from its engine, which shuddered to a halt, Nengola relates in his report.Van der Merwe executed an emergency landing in a clearing in the thickly wooded area surrounding the airfield, but back on the ground the aircraft struck an anthill and flipped over before it came to a standstill.An examination of the aeroplane’s engine later found signs that there had been water in the engine.An analysis of a fuel sample taken from the aircraft’s fuel tanks also established that there had been water present in the fuel, the report shows.Van der Merwe had carried out the usual checks, including a fuel drain, to see if there was any water in the fuel, but found no traces of water before he proceeded with the ill-fated take-off, the report indicates.The aircraft had flown from Eros Airport to Katima Mulilo on November 25 2005, Nengola relates.At Katima Mulilo, the pilot took on about 160 litres of aviation fuel before flying on to Bagani.There, the pilot put some 50 litres of fuel into the aircraft’s tanks.It was a sunny day with no rain.He did not use a fuel filter during the refuelling, the report states.During the night before the crash, it rained heavily at Bagani.This may have been a natural event that sealed the aircraft’s fate.Under the heading ‘Contributing Factor’ in a summary of the report, it is stated: “Since it had rained heavily in the area the previous night, water moisture might have leaked into the fuel tank and during taxi for take-off, it migrated through the fuel system into the engine.”Once it had reached the engine, the water caused “total engine failure”, according to the report.The manufacturers of the aircraft, Cessna Aircraft Company, in 1988 already issued an airworthiness directive in which it advised that a set of checks should be done on this type of plane to prevent engine stoppage due to water contamination of the fuel system, it is pointed out in the report.

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