On September 6, 1996, at 1230 central daylight time, a Poland MIG-17, N1719, registered to and operated by a private owner under Title 14 CFR Part 91, impacted terrain during takeoff from Tradewind Airport at Amarillo, Texas. The commercial pilot received serious injuries and the airplane was destroyed by a post-impact fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the planned cross-country flight to Sherman, Texas, and no flight plan was filed.

According to one witness, the airplane "made a normal takeoff roll and appeared to not want to fly as soon as the gear left the ground. It then appeared as though the tail struck the ground." Another witness stated that "the airplane acted as if it was too heavy to fly with the amount of airspeed it had." A third witness, who "observed the aircraft as it passed approximately midfield," reported that "the nose wheel was about 2 1/2 feet off the runway and the tailpipe was very close to the ground."

On scene examination by an FAA inspector revealed that "approximately one-half way" down the 5,099 foot runway, the "low aft fuselage skid struck the pavement of the runway for a distance of approximately 25 feet." According to the inspector, the airplane then became airborne for a short distance before touching down "to the right of the runway, leaving a set of main wheel tracks in the dirt." The airplane became airborne again "for about 300 feet," then impacted the ground right wing low, caught fire, and slid across a road before coming to rest.

The "MIG-17 Flight Manual" provides the following guidance to the pilot concerning takeoff rotation:

After reaching the airspeed of 170 km/h (92 KTS), separate the front wheel from the ground by pulling gently the stick and hold the aircraft in this position till it gets airborne. At the airspeed of 220-230 km/h (119-125 KTS), it smoothly leaves the ground. During this, there is no tendency to roll or to drop on a wing.

According to FAA records, the pilot reported 6,000 hours total flight time on June 3, 1996, at the time of his most recent medical examination. On July 1, 1996, the pilot was issued a temporary FAA Letter of Authorization (LOA) to act as pilot in command (PIC) in MIG-17 aircraft limited to flights within 70 nautical miles of Amarillo International Airport. On July 18, 1996, the temporary LOA was superseded and the pilot was issued a LOA valid until July 31, 1998, to act as PIC in MIG-17 aircraft with no geographical limitation. A sheet attached to the Pilot/Operator Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2) and entitled "FLIGHTSOFT LOGBOOK REPORT FOR: Walter "Nick" Nelson" indicated that between July 3, 1996, and August 24, 1996, the pilot accumulated 13.6 hours flight time in the accident airplane.

The pilot did not respond to a request to provide the Safety Board with a written statement concerning the accident.

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