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N4459M accident description

Maine map... Maine list
Crash location 45.789166°N, 67.817500°W
Nearest city Orient, ME
45.823670°N, 67.856125°W
3.0 miles away
Tail number N4459M
Accident date 22 Sep 2006
Aircraft type Piper PA-12
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 22, 2006, at 1330 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-12, N4459M, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Orient, Maine. The certificated commercial pilot and the passenger incurred minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed East Grand Lake, Orient, Maine, destined for Scraggly Lake, Millinocket, Maine. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, he performed a preflight inspection of the airplane, which included pumping water from the floats. He added about 30 gallons of fuel, for a total of 40 gallons of fuel onboard at takeoff, and verified the engine oil level. He then taxied on the surface of the lake for a westerly departure, and estimated that the winds were out of the west at 15 knots and gusting. During the takeoff, the pilot was not sure at what speed he rotated the airplane as it broke water, but did recall that as it climbed the airspeed was between 60 and 65 knots. When the airplane reached about 500 to 700 feet above the ground, the pilot banked the airplane left. The right wing suddenly "lifted up," the nose of the airplane pitched down, and the airplane was "thrown to the ground." During the descent the pilot reported that control inputs to the aileron, rudder, and elevator were ineffective. The airplane impacted trees and caught fire. The pilot additionally stated that he did not note any problems with the engine during the flight.

According to the passenger, after takeoff, and at an altitude of 150 feet, the pilot initiated a shallow left turn. Then, a gust of wind "lifted the aircraft up." He did not notice any unusual pitch changes, but did note that the airspeed was increasing before the airplane impacted the ground.

A witness observed the airplane during the takeoff. She saw the airplane flying at a low altitude, and did not think that it would be able to clear a tree line ahead of it. She stated that the airplane impacted the trees in a wings level descent.

Another witness also observed the airplane as it taxied for about 8 to 15 minutes before it took off, and during the takeoff. He watched as the floats of the airplane broke the water one at a time, "like the pilot forced them off." The pitch attitude of the airplane seemed to be at a 45-degree angle in the climb for "quite some time" before the airplane leveled off. As the airplane turned south, the witnessed looked away, then a moment or two later he heard a "large noise." He looked over and saw flames shooting 20 feet into the air.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors examined the wreckage at the accident site. The airplane impacted a "lightly" wooded area about 80 feet from the shoreline of an island and was consumed by a postimpact fire. The initial impact point was about 20 feet high on a 30-foot tall tree. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene, and flight control continuity was confirmed for the rudder, elevator, and ailerons. No indications of any preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions were noted.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and airplane single engine sea. His most recent FAA second class medical certificate was issued on August 18, 2006. According to the pilot, he had accumulated 535 total hours of flight experience, 205 hours of which were in the accident airplane make and model.

Review of weight and balance information for the accident airplane revealed that the airplane's maximum gross weight was 1,750 pounds, and its useful load when equipped with floats was 433 pounds. According to the FAA inspector, the pilot weighed 204 pounds, and the passenger weighed 185 pounds.

The weather conditions reported at Houlton International Airport (HUL), about 23 nautical miles northeast of the accident site, at 1353, included winds from 260 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 17 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear skies below 12,000 feet, temperature 57 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.04 inches of mercury.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed during the initial climb which resulted in an inadvertent stall. A factor was his inadequate weight and balance calculations and the gusty wind conditions.

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