On July 17, 1997 at 1730 central daylight time (cdt), a Piper PA- 28-151, N41371, piloted by a commercial pilot, was substantially damaged during a collision with a road embankment shortly after takeoff from runway 26 (2,940' X 150' dry sod) at the Fessenden Municipal Airport, Fessenden, North Dakota. The personal 14 CFR Part 91 flight was not operating on a flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and three passengers reported no injuries. The flight departed Fessenden, North Dakota, at 1730 cdt.

During an interview, the pilot said he used a soft field takeoff technique described in the airplane's pilot operating handbook. He said the grass was about 3 to 4 inches high and the runway surface was solid. The pilot said he began the takeoff on the stop way for runway 08. The stop way is about 550 feet long and precedes the actual runway surface for runway 26. It is located at the east end of the runway.

According to the pilot, the airplane lifted off at the runway's midpoint. His written statement said the airplane "...lifted into ground effect then settled, lifted back into ground effect until the aircraft sank back to the surface and collided with the road that was approximately 3-5 feet above the runway elevation... ." The pilot was asked why he did not abort the takeoff when the airplane settled onto the runway the first and the second times. He said he did not abort the takeoff the first time because the airplane was a short distance beyond mid-field and still had enough airspeed to get back into the air. He said he didn't abort the second time because there was very little runway remaining.

A flight instructor seated in the rear of the airplane said the pilot made a slight pitch down change once the airplane had been in ground effect for a short time. He said the pilot did this to accelerate while in ground effect. He said the airplane touched down after the pilot made the pitch change. The passenger said the pilot did this two times before the airplane collided with the road.

The pilot said the airplane's landing gear legs were sheared off when it struck the road. The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission airport engineering information showed runway 26 had an overrun area that was 300 feet long. The gravel road at the end of runway 26 had an elevation about 1-foot 6-inches above the elevation of runway 26's departure end. At the time of the accident, the temperature and dew point was 87 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit respectively at the Jamestown Municipal Airport, Jamestown, North Dakota. Jamestown is about 65 nautical miles southeast from Fessenden, North Dakota.

According to the pilot, he used two notches of flaps, about 25 degrees, for a soft field takeoff technique. The Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) for the accident airplane states, "Soft Field (Takeoff), No Obstacle: Lower flaps to 25 degrees. Accelerate the airplane, lift nose gear off as soon as possible, then lift off at the lowest possible airspeed. Accelerate just above the ground... ." The POH instructions for a soft field takeoff with an obstacle gives the same instructions except the climb speeds are different. Copies of the instructions are appended to this report.

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