NTSB Identification: MIA01LA125.
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Accident occurred Thursday, April 19, 2001 in Chapel Hill, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/17/2001
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-161, registration: N118AW
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the flight instructor, all pretakeoff checks were conducted by the instrument student, and his observation was that all preflight walk-around, radio, navigational, and engine checks were normal. Engine operation was normal, even characterized as "smooth" for initial power application and rotation, however, at about 200 to 300 feet agl, while crossing the departure end of the runway, the engine "burped" and regained power. About the time both pilots decided to return for a landing, the engine quit completely. The instructor took control of the aircraft, and they completed the emergency checklist for engine failure on takeoff, including switching fuel selector to the other, (left) tank, but power was not regained and a landing in the trees was unavoidable. Both pilots are adamant about the fuel selector being in the right tank detent at the start of the takeoff roll. Enough fuel spillage existed at the wreckage site that the Chapel Hill Fire Department was called, therefore fuel exhaustion was not considered by the FAA inspectors. Atmospheric conditions were not conducive to formation of carburetor ice by reference to icing probability charts. Subsequent engine run at an engine repair station with FAA oversight, after making adjustments for minor impact damage, revealed a satisfactorily running engine from idle to takeoff power.

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

The loss of engine power for undetermined reasons during takeoff, resulting in an inflight collision with trees during the subsequent emergency landing. A factor in the accident was the lack of suitable terrain to conduct an emergency landing.

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