FTW97LA107
FTW97LA107

On February 18, 1997, at 1415 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N4477F, registered to and operated by a private owner as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, was substantially damaged during an aborted takeoff at Harriet Alexander Field Airport near Salida, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a VFR flight plan was filed. The instrument rated private pilot and four passengers were not injured. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

During a telephone interview with the investigator-in-charge the pilot reported that during the takeoff roll on runway 24, the aircraft accelerated to 60 MPH like it "normally" does; however, it took "longer than normal to accelerate to 80 MPH." The aircraft appeared to "lift off fine, but it didn't seem to climb as well as he would have liked." He put the gear up and about 30 to 35 feet above the runway he lowered the aircraft's nose to accelerate to the best angle of climb airspeed of 100 MPH. Instead of accelerating and continuing to climb the aircraft began to descend. He "cut the power," and as the airplane touched down on the runway, the nose landing gear and left main landing gear collapsed. The airplane came to a stop 2,500 feet from the departure end of the runway.

The pilot further reported that he did not use any flaps for the takeoff, and he did not remember checking the manifold pressure during run-up or takeoff. He computed the gross weight of the aircraft as 3,502 pounds. The aircraft's maximum gross weight is 3,600 pounds. The pilot also reported that this was his third takeoff from a high altitude airport.

The airplane was equipped with a "backup gear extender" system which automatically extends the landing gear. Landing gear extension is designed to occur, even if the selector is in the up position, at airspeeds below approximately 118 MPH with power off.

A review of the performance charts in the Piper Aircraft Corporation's flight manual for the PA-32R-300 revealed the following information. In Section 5, titled "Performance," figure 5-9 the "Flaps Up Takeoff Performance" chart shows the performance for takeoff corrected for pressure altitude, temperature, gross weight, and wind. The pressure altitude at the airport at the time of the accident was 7,489 feet, the temperature was 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and density altitude was 8,600 feet. The performance data derived for these conditions would be off of the chart. In the same section, there is a warning that, "Performance information derived by extrapolation beyond the limits shown on the charts should not be used for flight planning purposes." Airport facilities information shows that runway 24 has an uphill grade of 1.9 degrees, which equates to a 117 foot rise. Also, runway 24 is recommended for landing, and runway 06 for departures, weather and traffic permitting.

According to the FAA inspector, the firewall, the left wing tip fuel tank, and the left wing spar sustained structural damage.

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