NTSB Identification: NYC99LA045.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, January 05, 1999 in METHUEN, MA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/18/2001
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-161, registration: N9683C
Injuries: 3 Serious,1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported a loss of power during the initial climb after takeoff. A witness who observed the airplane depart stated 'the engine didn't sound right,' and the airplane just barley cleared the trees located at the end of the runway. During a turn back towards the airport, the airplane pitched down and impacted trees. Examination of the wreckage did not disclose any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions of the airframe or engine. The airplane was equipped with a manual 3-point primer system. Spark plugs removed from the three cylinders which contained primer lines revealed a 'heavy coat of black sooty material' present on the electrodes. The spark plug removed from the cylinder which did not contain a primer line was 'clean.' Additionally, the primer control in the cockpit was observed in a forward, but unlocked position. Except for a 1.8 hour check out in the airplane, all 270 hours of flight experience the pilot had logged since August 1996, were in turbine powered airplanes. Review of the airplane's operating handbook, revealed that part of the 'Normal Procedures, Before Takeoff' checklist, included the item, 'Primer...locked.'

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's failure to ensure the engine primer was in and locked prior to takeoff which resulted in a loss of engine power. A factor in this accident was the pilot's lack of experience in airplanes equipped with reciprocating engines.

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