NTSB Identification: ERA12LA077
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, November 19, 2011 in Mulberry, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/07/2013
Aircraft: ERCOUPE 415-C, registration: N99168
Injuries: 1 Serious,1 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 medically unqualified pilot filled the airplane’s fuel tanks and flew about 45 minutes to another airport, where the airplane remained on the ground about 2 hours and no fuel or maintenance services were performed. The pilot agreed to fly a passenger, who was a student pilot, to another airport. The passenger reported that, after boarding the airplane, he was not briefed on how to use the lapbelt, which the pilot secured for him. The passenger also reported that the pilot did not ask him his weight for the purpose of weight and balance calculations. The pilot did not perform a preflight inspection per the passenger’s account. Based on all available data from the pilot, maintenance records, and airplane documents located in the wreckage, the airplane was near or at its maximum gross weight at the time of engine start. After taxiing to the departure runway, the pilot did not perform an engine runup. He then taxied onto the grass runway, applied the brakes, and applied full power. The pilot reported that the airplane accelerated but not as fast as he thought it should have. The pilot reported that it took a long time to accelerate to 60 mph, and, about the point when he was considering aborting the takeoff, the airplane became airborne.

After becoming airborne, the pilot stated that the airplane climbed to 400 feet, cleared power lines, then began descending. He maneuvered the airplane toward a clearing, and, while descending, the right wing collided with trees. The airplane then impacted the ground in a right-wing-low attitude and a fire ensued. The pilot and passenger exited the airplane. The passenger later reported having difficulty unlatching his restraint because he was not familiar with it. The delay in releasing his restraint most likely resulted in greater burn injury to the passenger than had it been immediately released.

Postaccident examination of the engine revealed no compression in three of the four cylinders, but this was most likely due to the postcrash fire. Further examination of the thermally damaged engine revealed that the left magneto produced spark when rotated by hand, but the right magneto did not produce spark. Postaccident inspection of the right magneto revealed extensive heat damage, which precluded operational testing; therefore, no determination could be made as to whether there was preimpact failure or malfunction of the right magneto. Based on available evidence, the airplane’s poor acceleration during takeoff was most likely due to being near or at its maximum gross weight and operating from a grass runway. The pilot should have aborted the takeoff once he recognized the airplane’s poor acceleration performance.

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

The pilot’s failure to abort the takeoff after recognizing the airplane’s poor performance during the takeoff roll. Contributing to the passenger’s injuries was the pilot’s failure to provide a briefing on the use of the lapbelt, which delayed the passenger’s exit from the wreckage.

Full narrative available

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