On November 1, 1995, at 1600 central standard time, a Helio HT- 295, N68889, was destroyed following a loss of control during initial takeoff climb near Llano, Texas. The airline transport rated pilot was seriously injured, one passenger sustained minor injuries, and two other passengers were not injured. The airplane was operated as a business flight by High Tech Inc., of Dallas, Texas, under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight for which a flight plan was not filed.

According to the law enforcement officer who interviewed the pilot at the hospital, the aircraft departed from a grass airstrip at the Hickory Bluff Ranch near Llano, Texas, for a local flight around the ranch. Several workers at the ranch witnessed the airplane "attempting to climb in the direction of rising terrain without gaining altitude."

In a telephone interview conducted by the investigator in charge, and in enclosed NTSB Form 6120.1/2, the pilot stated that he selected a 30 degree flap setting as called for a short field takeoff. During the takeoff roll the engine sounded "normal" and the airplane broke ground prior to reaching mid field and a climb attitude was established. The pilot added that as the airplane climbed to about 100 feet above the ground, the "climb went from positive to approximately level," attitude as he approached rising terrain.

The pilot further stated that he elected to retract the flaps to a 20 degree setting to "improve on the climb performance" by reducing drag. The pilot attempted to maintain controlled flight and "flew around the larger trees looking for an open area" but the "rising terrain towards the ridge made it impossible to avoid contact." Control was lost as the pilot "pulled the joke back" and slowed the airplane prior to impact with the trees.

The airplane came to rest approximately a 1/2 mile from the point of departure and a post-impact fire destroyed the airplane. The pilot and the front seat passenger of the airplane told a law enforcement officer that the engine "was operating normally during the flight."

On the enclosed Pilot/Operator Report, the pilot stated that a 10 to 20 knot headwind prevailed at the time of his departure from the 2,600 foot airstrip. During the telephonic interview with the investigator in charge, the pilot attributed the deterioration in climb performance to a downdraft "created by orographic effect of the wind blowing over the ridgeline."

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