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N44LS accident description

Michigan map... Michigan list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Bellaire, MI
44.980282°N, 85.211173°W
Tail number N44LS
Accident date 28 Jul 1997
Aircraft type Stratton CHALLENGER II
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On July 28, 1997, at 1500 eastern daylight time (edt), a Stratton Challenger II, N44LS, was destroyed by ground impact and post-crash fire shortly after takeoff from the Antrim County Airport, Bellaire, Michigan. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 in visual meteorological conditions. No flight plan was on file. The flight departed Bellaire, Michigan, at 1500 edt, and was en route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

According to one witness, the accident airplane was the 7th airplane to take off in a series of airplanes. This witness said he saw the airplanes form a line facing west on the east/west taxiway of the north/south runway. The first three airplanes took off normally, each taking turns and waiting on the ground until the airplane ahead was in the air. He said the 4th, 5th, and 6th airplanes climbed at a very rapid pace. In addition, he said that the 4th airplane stalled on takeoff then dropped its nose, lost altitude slightly, and then continued to climb. All the airplanes turned right on climb out. N44LS was the last to takeoff. After liftoff, the airplane banked to the south, which was completely opposite of what the others airplanes had done. He noticed the airplane banking then he lost sight of it. Upon arrival to the accident site, he said there was no smoke and no fuel smell.

The second witness said he observed N44LS takeoff to the west and it made a slight left turn to the south. He said it looked like the pilot was going to do a turn around and land. As the airplane continued turning left, it airplane knife edged up on its left wing then plummeted straight down. The witness also said that the 4th airplane had a difficulty taking off. He said it stood on its tail as it was taking off in a strong head wind. In addition, he said he was surprised the pilots took off with a wind gusting as high as it was.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector represented the NTSB during the on-scene investigation. The inspector's visual inspection did not reveal any mechanical problems. The engine appeared as though it remained at takeoff power until ground contact. The fuel tanks were full. The wing and aft fuselage remained intact. All flight controls operated normally. Control cables appeared normal except in the cockpit area where control continuity could not be verified as the area was destroyed at impact.

A post mortem examination of the pilot was conducted on July 28, 1997 at the Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, Michigan. No pre-existent anomalies were noted during this examination which would have contributed to the accident or the pilot's death.

Toxicological examination of post-accident specimens from the pilot detected Lidocaine in the blood and urine. According to the 1993 edition of the Physician's Desk Reference, Lidocaine is a form of anesthesia.

NTSB Probable Cause

failure of the pilot to maintain control of the airplane during takeoff. The gusty wind condition was a related factor.

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