NTSB Identification: LAX01FA199.
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Accident occurred Monday, June 04, 2001 in Big Bear City, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N5413S
Injuries: 1 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 student pilot lost control of the single engine airplane during the takeoff initial climb with a tailwind and collided with trees while descending in the crosswind turn. The student departed with an 8-knot tailwind. The UNICOM frequency was reported to be in operation; however, no one reported hearing the accident airplane request departure information or make a position report. According to a pilot witness, the airplane was unable to gain altitude after leaving ground effect and the nose pitched up and to the left, and began to "oscillate back and forth as if it was having difficulty in trying to climb." The witness added the airplane made a shallow left-hand turn and the nose began to pitch up, then the airplane "stalled and the aircraft went nose down." The student pilot was a paraplegic and had obtained approximately 74 total hours of flight time, of which approximately 25 hours were accumulated in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The student had accumulated approximately 6 hours of solo flight time prior to the accident flight. The aircraft utilized a rudder hand control, which allowed the pilot to operate the rudder pedals manually. The student had performed a demonstrated ability flight utilizing the hand control 5 days before the accident. A post accident examination of the wreckage revealed the propeller had sliced through 4-inch thick tree branches. The right magneto would not operate following the accident and it was noted that the breaker points would not open, oil and dirt were found in the magneto housing, and the magneto's drive was excessively loose. At the time of the last annual inspection, the engine's magneto timing was checked. A service bulletin issued for the affected magneto required an inspection of the magnetos every 500 hours. At the time of the accident, the magneto had accumulated a total time in service of 1,256.36 hours, and there was no entry indication the service bulletin had been complied with. No other anomalies were noted with the airplane and engine. The density altitude was computed to be 8,400 feet.


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

the student pilot's selection of a takeoff runway conducive to a tailwind weather condition and his failure to maintain airspeed and his inadvertent stall during takeoff initial climb. Factors in the accident were the partial loss engine power resulting from the inoperative right magneto and the high density altitude weather condition.

Full narrative available

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