On February 4, 1997, about 0230 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172P, N62332, was substantially damaged during a collision with trees while on base leg at the Lawrence County Airpark, Chesapeake, Ohio. The certificated private pilot was uninjured. Night visual meteorological conditions existed and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The private pilot checked weather utilizing the Direct User Access System (DUATS) at 2330, February 3, 1997. After departing the Wright Brothers Airport, Dayton, Ohio, about 0030, the pilot stated he flew locally to check the actual (weather) conditions. Satisfied with the weather, the pilot reported "the remainder of the flight to Lawrence County Airport (HTW) was uneventful and (weather) conditions improved as forecasted."

Upon his arrival at HTW, the pilot entered the left downwind for runway 26 because "I was familiar with this approach." The pilot recalled, "this approach was not satisfactory as my ground speed and altitude were high." Executing a go-around, the pilot reentered the pattern on a left downwind for runway 08. The pilot reported that he added carburetor heat at midfield, reduced engine power to 1500 rpm and lowered flaps to 10 degrees abeam the Runway End Identifier Lights (REIL). At the 45 degree position to the REIL, the pilot reported that he turned base leg and, "upon leveling off (rolling wings level) on base, the REIL disappeared and the (airplane's) landing light illuminated a row of trees." The pilot stated that he "added full power, closed the carburetor heat, and established a climb attitude." The pilot knew that he contacted the trees, but did not feel a major impact, so, "reestablished my decent and airspeed, lowered flaps to 20 degrees, and turned final." The pilot stated that he "completed the landing with no further occurrence" and taxied to the ramp.

The private pilot stated that he had 5.4 total night flight hours and this was the first flight as pilot in command at night. The pilot had 3.4 hours in make and model airplane.

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