NTSB Identification: FTW97LA124.
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Accident occurred Saturday, March 15, 1997 in FORT COLLINS, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N4860T
Injuries: 1 Minor,3 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.

As the airplane took off, witnesses near the departure end of the runway said it appeared to be 'staggering out.' The pilot said the engine lost partial power and reversed course to make an emergency downwind landing. The airplane touched down on the runway at midfield but at a 45 degree angle. It continued across the ground, jumped a ditch, hit a tree, and collided with three parked airplanes before coming to a halt. The pilot said an employee of the operator helped clean snow off the wings. The employee denied this, stating he only gave a broom to the pilot. The employee did notice snow and ice on the wings and told the pilot he would have to remove it before flying. The front seat passenger said the pilot used a broom to clean snow off the wings by himself. He did not recall the engine lost power, but said the airplane was flying low and was not climbing. He did not remember if any snow or ice remained on the wings prior to takeoff. One passenger recalled seeing icicles hanging from, and approximately 2 inches of snow on, the wings. They assisted the pilot by using their arms to brush the snow and ice off the wings. They said the wings were clean before they took off. Examination of the engine disclosed no evidence that would preclude power from being developed. Calculations indicate the airplane was near maximum gross weight and within c.g. limits.

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

The pilot's failure to remove completely ice/frost from the wing, impeding the airplane's aerodynamic performance. Factors were wing contamination by frost and ice.

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