NTSB Identification: LAX97FA126.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, March 18, 1997 in BAGDAD, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/31/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-22-160, registration: N3629Z
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot made an unplanned stop at the airport due to a sick passenger, then about 30 minutes later, he took off again. Later, the density altitude at the airport was computed to be 6572 feet. After takeoff, the airplane was observed to enter a right crosswind turn, then it abruptly rolled and pitched downward. Reportedly, it remained in a nose down attitude until colliding with terrain. No preimpact mechanical failure was found. Investigation revealed the airplane, which was originally fabric covered, had been metalized; and its engine had been derated from 160 to 150 horsepower. Also, the airplane's propeller had been repitched (impact and ground fire damage precluded measurement of the blade pitch angles). The NOAA Airport/Facility Directory stated under airport remarks that there may be unusual air currents in the vicinity of the airport. Runway 05-23 exhibited a variable gradient; the terrain at the departure end of runway 05 dropped, then raised. The pilot had received his private certificate on 2/18/97. The investigation did not determine whether he had leaned the mixture for takeoff in high density altitude. Also, the takeoff gross weight of the airplane was not determined.

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

failure of the pilot to obtain and/or maintain adequate airspeed during takeoff/initial climb, which resulted in an inadvertent stall and collision with the terrain. High density altitude was a related factor.

Full narrative available

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