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N468LE accident description

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Crash location 44.272500°N, 86.246944°W
Nearest city Manistee, MI
44.292502°N, 86.245920°W
1.4 miles away
Tail number N468LE
Accident date 05 Aug 2014
Aircraft type Cessna 177RG
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On August 5, 2014, about 1510 eastern daylight time, a Cessna model 177RG airplane, N468LE, was substantially damaged during takeoff on runway 19 (2,721 feet by 75 feet, asphalt) at the Manistee County Airport (MBL), Manistee, Michigan. The private pilot, flight instructor, and two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was operated by Great Lakes Air Ventures LLC under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 without a flight plan. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the cross-country instructional flight that was en route to Mason County Airport (LDM), Ludington, Michigan.

The flight instructor reported that the MBL weather station was inoperative during his preflight check of the weather conditions and, as such, he referenced the airport's windsock to select the runway for takeoff. As the airplane taxied from the ramp area, the windsock indicated a light wind of variable direction that was primarily from the east. Believing that the winds were light-and-variable, the flight instructor told his student, a private pilot who was receiving flight instruction toward a complex airplane endorsement, to depart on runway 19 because the intended destination was south of the departure airport. The flight instructor reported that he calculated the runway length required to clear a 50-foot obstacle was about 1,850 feet at the airplane's maximum gross weight and with a calm wind condition. The student reportedly initially selected the wing flaps to 20 degrees, but the flight instructor noted the incorrect flap setting and told the student to select 10 degrees of wing flaps for the short-field takeoff. The takeoff was initiated from the end of the runway, to maximize available runway length, and by holding the wheel brakes until maximum engine power had been achieved. During the subsequent takeoff roll, the flight instructor noticed that the wing flaps were still incorrectly set at 20 degrees and changed them to 10 degrees for the short-field takeoff. The student called out rotation speed (66 knots) and began to apply aft elevator control input for takeoff. The flight instructor stated that the airplane achieved liftoff around 70 knots with about 1,000 feet of runway remaining. During initial climb, about 5-10 feet above the runway, the airplane experienced a sudden loss of airspeed and began to sink back toward the runway. The airplane touched-down at the runway departure threshold and continued down an embankment into a tree line located about 350 feet from the end of the runway. Following the accident, the flight instructor noted that the airport's windsock was indicating a north-to-northwest wind direction with wind gusts reaching 18-20 knots. He stated that the apparent wind change had resulted in a tailwind condition during the accident takeoff. Additionally, he reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have prevented its normal operation during the accident takeoff. The fuselage and both wings were substantially damaged during the accident.

The automated surface observing system (ASOS) located at the departure airport (MBL) was not operational when the accident occurred. There was an active notice to airman (NOTAM) for the inoperative weather system. However, there was a valid terminal forecast issued for MBL at the time of the accident, which indicated a surface wind of 350 degrees at 7 knots.

The next closest aviation weather observing system was located at the intended destination (LDM), which was 19.8 miles south of the MBL. At 1515, the LDM weather station reported: wind 310 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 miles; scattered clouds at 3,800 feet above ground level (agl), scattered clouds at 4,500 feet agl, and a broken ceiling at 9,500 feet agl; temperature 24 degrees Celsius, dew point 16 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of mercury.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot receiving instruction's inability to respond to or compensate for the sudden change in wind direction and speed that the airplane encountered shortly after liftoff, which resulted in a tailwind condition, a corresponding decrease in airspeed, and a reduced climb gradient.

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