NTSB Identification: ATL07LA111.
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Accident occurred Thursday, August 09, 2007 in Leonardtown, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/29/2007
Aircraft: Piper PA-22-160, registration: N2731P
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot made a forced landing to an open field on initial takeoff climb. He informed the State Police that he was concerned about the weight of the airplane and the possible performance due to the hot weather. On takeoff, the airplane was slow to accelerate which he attributed to the hot and humid weather. The airplane used about 3,000 feet of runway before becoming airborne at 80 mph with an initial climb of about 50 feet per minute, "well below normal." As the airplane approached a tree line located about 1,500 feet from the end of the runway, the airplane was no longer able to climb and began a descent. The pilot stated that the airplane was at full power, he lowered one notch of flaps, just before reaching the tree line, then he lowered the flaps to the full down position, the airplane skimmed the top of the trees, collided with the ground in a nose down right wing low attitude, and caught fire destroying the airplane. He stated that the gross weight of the airplane was 2,000 pounds, and he did not conduct any formal performance planning for the flight except for mentally going over the weight and balance in his head. In addition, the pilot did not consider that density altitude and pressure altitude was a factor since he was departing from a 4,000-foot runway. The weight and balance was computed using the empty weight and three different baggage weights provided to the State Police, FAA, and NTSB by the pilot, and the empty weight provided by the aircraft manufacturer. The takeoff weight in all three computations ranged from 1,816 pounds to 1,981 pounds. The departure airport is located at an elevation of 142 feet, and the departure runway is 4,150 feet in length. The temperature at the departure airport was 82-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature was 72-degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter was 29.88. The density altitude at the time of the accident was 1,755 feet and the pressure altitude was 180 feet. The manufacturer stated that with flaps extended the performance figures were for standard airplanes flown at gross weight under standard conditions at sea level. The takeoff run is 1,220 feet and the takeoff over a 50-foot barrier is 1,600 feet. With a density altitude of 1,755 feet the takeoff run will increase approximately 25 percent for every 1,000 feet increase in density altitude. The takeoff run would have been approximately 43 percent longer or 1,745 feet and 2, 288 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle. Had the pilot performed written calculations for the weight and balance and density altitude for the departure airport he would have known that his takeoff distance would have increased due to the environmental conditions at the time of accident; thus, he could have selected a go or no go point on the runway to abort the takeoff. Post accident inspection disclosed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies.

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

The pilot's inadequate performance planning and failure to abort the takeoff.

Full narrative available

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