NTSB Identification: LAX05FA114.
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Accident occurred Sunday, March 13, 2005 in Big Bear City, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/31/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140, registration: N9956W
Injuries: 1 Serious,3 Minor.

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 encountered a stall/mush condition during the takeoff initial climb and descended until colliding with a roadside guardrail about 1 mile beyond the end of the runway. The guardrail was located beneath power lines having an approximate elevation of 57 feet above the airport's elevation. Prior to takeoff, the pilot added 25 gallons of fuel for the planned 43-mile (direct) flight. This increased the airplane's gross weight to within 34 pounds of its maximum certificated gross weight. The pilot heard the airport's automated weather broadcast that the density altitude was at least 8,100 feet. The pilot did not consult the available Piper "Owner's Handbook" that indicated the maximum elevation published for takeoff was for a 7,000-foot density altitude condition. At this altitude, about 3,800 feet are required to takeoff and clear a 50-foot obstacle. At an 8,100-foot density altitude, an undetermined additional distance would be required. The pilot allowed the passenger to perform the takeoff. The passenger held a student pilot certificate, had about 15 hours of total flight time, and had not soloed. The stall warning light illuminated several times during the approximately 2-minute-long flight, and the pilot took over the controls from the passenger. A witness observed the airplane 15 to 20 seconds before it crashed. The witness noted that the airplane was in a nose high pitch attitude, with its nose 10 to 15 degrees above the horizon. Then, the airplane's nose lowered, and the airplane descended until impacting the guardrail. The pilot subsequently reported that the maximum altitude gained during the flight was about 200 feet above ground level, following which he encountered a downdraft. The airplane's "Owner's Handbook" indicates that at an 8,100-foot density altitude, the maximum rate of climb is about 325 feet per minute. No preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures were identified during examination of the wreckage.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed that resulted in an inadvertent stall/mush during initial climb. Contributing factors were the pilot's inadequate preflight preparations and the high density altitude.

Full narrative available

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