NTSB Identification: LAX04FA226.
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Accident occurred Monday, May 31, 2004 in Columbia, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/26/2007
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-180, registration: N7626J
Injuries: 2 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 airplane descended to ground impact in the takeoff initial climb. On the takeoff roll and initial climb from a 4,670-foot runway, witnesses heard the engine sputtering, missing, and backfiring. An additional witness on the airport reported that his attention was drawn to the runway by "snap" and "pop" sounds from the engine. When he looked toward the noise, he saw the accident airplane about midfield. It sounded to him as if the engine were running lean. The airplane lifted off the ground and appeared to climb out slowly. He then heard the engine "snap" and "pop" again, which occurred a couple of times with about 2 to 3 seconds between each cycle. The abnormal engine sounds stopped, and the airplane climbed for an additional 5 seconds before the nose pitched up about 10 degrees. The witness then saw the airplane develop a high sink rate with an increasing nose up pitch attitude. Witnesses said the airplane remained in a nose high, wings level attitude until just before it dropped behind a tree line when the right wing dropped and the airplane hit the ground. The witness estimated the airplane traveled about 3/4 down the runway where it reached its highest altitude of 50 feet above the ground. A post impact fire ensued and the cockpit and engine were thermally damaged. An airframe and engine inspection and teardown were conducted with no preimpact mechanical anomalies noted that would have precluded normal operation. Investigators were able to establish that the owner (a private pilot) was seated in the right seat, and the commercial pilot was seated in the left seat. Investigators were not able to determine who was manipulating the controls at the time of the accident. The toxicology results for the commercial pilot showed levels of marihuana in the pilot's blood that indicated recent use, likely within the 8 hours prior to the accident.

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

The loss of engine power for undetermined reason during takeoff-initial climb, and the pilot's failure to maintain sufficient airspeed to avoid a stall/mush. Factors associated with the accident are an inadvertent stall/mush, and the pilot's failure to abort the takeoff.

Full narrative available

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