NTSB Identification: CHI97LA144.
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Accident occurred Friday, May 23, 1997 in ARCADIA, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/29/1998
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-140, registration: N5892W
Injuries: 3 Serious.

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 made a downwind takeoff from a sod runway that was 2,500 feet long. The sod runway was not lighted, nor were there any reflective devices marking the threshold or runway edges. According to the pilot, the airplane became airborne about midfield and did not gain altitude or airspeed as fast as he thought it should. Subsequently, the airplane collided with trees and terrain about 1/2-mile from the departure end of the runway. The airplane was destroyed by the collision and a post-collision fire. The pilot said he took off downwind because he did not believe a 7 knot quartering tailwind would be a factor since it was 'slight.' An on-scene investigation revealed no mechanical anomalies with the engine or airframe that would prevent normal operations. A drug screen performed by the hospital on a sample of the pilot's urine, obtained 10 days after the accident, indicated 'THC presumptive' and did not distinguish between tetrahydrocannabinol (the active component of marijuana) and tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (an inactive metabolite of marijuana). Marijuana was found in a coat that was in the airplane. The pilot said the coat belonged to the former owner.

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

improper planning/decision by the pilot. Factors related to the accident were: the pilot's selection of the wrong runway for takeoff, and the resultant tailwind.

Full narrative available

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