NTSB Identification: FTW97LA315.
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Accident occurred Monday, August 18, 1997 in GILA, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/04/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N9455J
Injuries: 2 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 said that during a flight, the passenger became ill, and he landed at a private airstrip. After the passenger felt better, the pilot elected to takeoff at dusk from the unlit airstrip. During the takeoff roll, the airplane encountered soft terrain, veered left, and the left wing struck a cactus and a fence. The airplane then went back onto the runway area and exited the other side before being maneuvered back onto the runway. During the sequence, a fuel cell in the left wing ruptured, and a fire erupted, resulting in extensive damage. Subsequent investigation by the New Mexico State Police showed the pilot's blood alcohol content was '0.203.'

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

the pilot's impairment of judgment and performance due to alcohol, and his failure to maintain directional control of the airplane, which resulted in a ground swerve, and collision with vegetation (cactus) and a fence. Related factors were: the soft runway condition and surrounding obstructions (high vegetation and fence).

Full narrative available

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