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N8251F accident description

New Hampshire map... New Hampshire list
Crash location 42.962500°N, 70.828611°W
Nearest city Hampton, NH
42.939257°N, 70.834220°W
1.6 miles away
Tail number N8251F
Accident date 20 Apr 2005
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-151
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On April 20, 2005, at 1247 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-151, N8251F, was destroyed during a collision with trees and terrain, and a subsequent post crash fire, following a takeoff from Hampton Airfield (7B3), Hampton, New Hampshire. The certificated private pilot/owner and the passenger received serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, destined for North Central State Airport (SFZ), Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

During interviews with a Safety Board investigator and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot described the circumstances surrounding the accident.

According to the pilot, they departed from their home base of Pawtucket about 0900 on the day of the accident. During the flight to Hampton, the pilot did not notice any mechanical anomalies.

While the pilot and his passenger ate lunch at the airfield, they observed the winds "bouncing back and forth." The winds were "light," but changing directions frequently on the runway. The pilot believed that they seemed to favor runway 02, so he elected to depart from that runway. He did not perform any preflight performance calculations, such as density altitude or takeoff distance.

Following a run-up check of the engine, the pilot configured the airplane for a short field takeoff by setting the flaps to "two notches," or 25 degrees. He then accelerated the airplane in a turn onto the turf runway and proceeded to take off. The airplane initially seemed to accelerate normally, but then appeared to "struggle" to reach 45 knots. Once the airplane left the ground, the pilot knew that there was a problem, but was not sure if he could land the airplane with the amount of runway remaining.

The pilot did not notice any loss of power during the takeoff, but did feel that the engine "was not running at full power." When asked, the pilot could not recall any indications of the engine power instruments during the takeoff, and did not recall hearing any abnormal engine sounds. During the takeoff he felt that he "just couldn't get the power needed for takeoff," which resulted in the airplane "stalling," and subsequently impacting trees.

According to a local police officer, he observed the airplane departing from the airfield. He estimated that the airplane was about 30 feet above the ground, and that it was "teetering" from side to side during the takeoff. As the airplane passed over the officer, he heard a loud "sputtering." He then heard a loud noise as the airplane impacted trees and the ground.

The officer moved to a position to where he could better see where the airplane had come to rest, and observed a large amount of thick black smoke, then heard a loud explosion.

The officer spoke to the pilot before he was taken to the hospital. The pilot stated that he was attempting to depart from runway 02, but was unable to reach a sufficient airspeed.

A witness, who owns a hanger on the east side of the airport, observed the airplane during the takeoff. The witness first noticed the airplane through the door of the hangar, and due to the distance the airplane had traveled down the runway compared to the altitude it had reached, he became concerned. He ran outside of the door and observed the airplane near the tops of the trees on the north side of the runway. Once outside, he felt the wind at his back, and observed that the windsock was pointed "down the runway," blowing in a direction from south to north. The witness also noted that the airplane was never more than about 40 feet above ground level during the takeoff, and described the engine sound as "pulling pretty hard and doing what it was supposed to."

The witness further stated that the winds at the airport were often subject to change, and could completely change direction from one hour to the next. He also stated that the airport was equipped with two windsocks at each runway end, and one windsock in the middle of the airport.

The wreckage was examined at the scene by an FAA inspector, and was subsequently moved to a recovery facility. The wreckage was then re-examined under the supervision of an FAA inspector on April 27, 2005.

According to the inspector, the airframe had largely been consumed by fire. Control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to all flight control surfaces.

The propeller was separated from the engine, and the spinner exhibited signs of rotational twisting. One propeller blade was bent forward and twisted slightly about 2/3 of its span, and the other blade was curved aft and twisted.

Engine continuity was confirmed from the crankshaft flange to the rear engine gears. Both magnetos were fire damaged, and were unable to be rotated.

No evidence of pre-impact malfunction or failure of either the engine or airframe was noted.

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land and sea. He reported during an interview that he had accrued about 400 total hours of flight experience, "most" of which was in the accident airplane make and model. When asked, the pilot stated that he had never operated from Hampton Airfield prior to the day of the accident, and that he had accumulated about 3 to 4 prior hours of experience operating from turf runways.

Hampton Airfield was comprised of a single 2,100-foot by 170-foot turf runway. Sixty-foot trees were located 450 feet from the departure end of runway 02.

The weather reported at Pease International Tradeport Airport (PSM), Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at 1255, included winds from 250 degrees at 14 knots, gusting to 18 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, scattered clouds at 6,000 feet, broken clouds at 25,000 feet, temperature 84 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 29.67 inches of mercury.

According to a recent FAA form 337, the basic empty weight of the airplane was 1507.6 pounds. In a report prepared by the local police department, the combined weight of the pilot and the passenger was 405 pounds. According to the pilot, the airplane's fuel tanks were full prior to his departure from Pawtucket, and prior to departing from Hampton, the fuel tanks contained about 30 gallons of fuel.

A review of a Piper Cherokee Warrior Information Manual revealed a chart entitled "Obstacle Clearance Short Field Take Off Distance." According to the chart, assuming a paved, level, and dry runway; the maximum gross weight of 2,325 pounds; full power before brake release; 25 degrees of flaps; a lift-off, and climb speed at the 50 foot obstacle of 52 knots; a pressure altitude of 320 feet; and a temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit; the required ground roll would be 1,800 feet, and the distance required to over fly a 50-foot barrier would be 2,200 feet in zero wind conditions. The same previous conditions with a 5-knot headwind would require a 1,600-foot ground roll and 2,000 feet to over fly a 50-foot barrier. A 5-knot tail wind would require a 2,300-foot ground roll, and 2,700 feet to over fly a 50-foot barrier.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's improper decision to depart with a tailwind, and his failure to perform preflight performance calculations.

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