NTSB Identification: NYC02FA152
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 01, 2002 in Marietta, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/05/2004
Aircraft: Grumman American AA-5B, registration: N81310
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.

A witness observed the pilot was having difficulty starting the engine. After the engine started, the airplane was taxied to the runway. The witness then observed the airplane in a steep 45-degree left bank, until it disappeared behind corn stalks. A second witness observed the accident airplane depart from the airport and the engine "cut off and on five times" before descending to the ground. A third witness observed the airplane in a sharp bank, with the left wing tipped downward and the right wing pointed towards the sky, before it disappeared below a tree line. On a recent flight, the pilot was observed having difficulty starting the engine. He also requested maintenance assistance for a rough running magneto. The maintenance performed on the airplane included removal, cleaning, and verifying specifications of both magnetos, and all spark plugs. Review of the airplane's maintenance logs did not reveal any entries related to magneto or spark plug malfunctions. After the accident, neither the left or right magnetos could be tested due to impact and fire damage. A review of FAA-H-8083-3, Airplane Flying Handbook, revealed, "...If an actual engine failure should occur immediately after takeoff and before a safe maneuvering altitude is attained, it is usually inadvisable to attempt to turn back to the field from where the takeoff was made. Instead, it is safer to immediately establish the proper glide attitude, and select a field directly ahead or slightly to either side of the takeoff path." There were several non-populated clear areas/fields along, and on either side of, the departure path.

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

The pilot's improper decision to operate an airplane with known mechanical deficiencies, his improper decision to return to the airport with inadequate altitude remaining, and his failure to maintain airspeed. A factor related to the accident was the malfunction of the ignition system, which resulted in a loss of engine power.

Full narrative available

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