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Plane Crash Blamed On Contaminated Fuel System

Feb 11, 2004 | Southeast Missourian

The death of an Arkansas doctor whose plane crashed in a Bollinger County farm field nearly 19 months ago was due to a contaminated fuel system, according to a final investigation report released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The accident occurred July 25, 2002, near Marble Hill, Mo. The Piper PA-30 airplane, owned and piloted by Dr. Anthony Junklin, 59, crashed during an attempted landing. Junklin reported a loss of engine power and witnesses heard engine noise when the plane began to circle over a 40-acre grass field. The engine noise stopped about midpoint through the turn.

On Feb. 5, the NTSB issued its final report, listing the probable cause as a "solid fuel system contamination resulting in a loss of engine power." Inadequate emergency procedures and the airspeed not maintained by the pilot were additional causes.

Examination revealed that the left-engine-driven fuel pump contained about a quarter cup of fuel and the right engine driven fuel pump contained less than a half teaspoon of fuel.

Both fuel selectors contained a brown-colored contaminant, which was also found on the fuel screens for both engines.

Pieces of the plane were initially taken to the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. The engine was then shipped to the manufacturer and the rest to the insurance company.

A plane's fuel system should be drained before the first flight of each day and after refueling to avoid accumulating water or sediment, Cape Girardeau airport manager Bruce Loy said.

"You can always visually look at your fuel too," he said. "Because when you're straining fuel, you're also looking at it to see if it's contaminated and if you shouldn't fly."

Cape Air Charter owner Bill Beard agreed.

"On preflights, you drain your fuel for contaminants to ensure that the proper grade is in there ususally by color and odor," he said. "You should buy fuel from an approved aviation source. Some people use automobile fuel in their aircrafts, but most people use what is recommended by the manufacturer."

The fact that Junklin died as his plane crashed in a grassy field is puzzling to aviators.

"As long as you remain calm and follow procedures, you should be able land safely, especially if you have a wide open field to land in," Beard said.

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