On July 25, 1997, at 0839 eastern daylight time, a Kenneson Merlin GT experimental airplane, N912AK, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain after takeoff from Cole Airstrip, Kensington, New Hampshire. The certificated Airline Transport rated pilot was seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that originated at Cole Airstrip, approximately 0838. No flight plan had been filed for the flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

In a telephone conversation, the pilot's wife reported to a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector that she traveled to the airport to watch her husband, the owner/builder of N912AK, take the airplane out for its inaugural flight. She stated that she watched preflight, taxi, takeoff, and initial climb, and that everything appeared "normal." She stated she was momentarily distracted, turned away, and when she looked back the airplane had crashed.

The pilot provided a statement to a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector by telephone. According to the Record of Conversation:

"After a normal preflight checkout and taxi, he made a normal takeoff on runway 34 with no surface winds. He was climbing out of approximately fifty (50) feet when a small 'Dutch Roll' was observed then another 'Dutch Roll' with greater intensity, the third 'Dutch Roll' caused him to drift to the right of the runway toward the top of some pine trees. He reduced the power. The aircraft, in approximately a 30 degree bank, was turned toward the runway. He said maybe he stalled the aircraft as he further reduced the power. He felt the aircraft slide toward the ground striking the left wing, then the nose/prop area before turning 180 degrees and crushing the gear. When the aircraft stopped and the dust settled, the engine was still running normal so he shut it off and waited for his wife to arrive."

The pilot further stated:

"...the aircraft engine was not the problem and he also had no flight controls problems. He was not sure why the 'Dutch Roll' started or if it would have gotten worse, just that he wanted to get back on the runway in case there was a problem so he wouldn't have to land in the trees."

In a written statement, the pilot said:

"Shortly after takeoff, at approximately fifty feet the plane started to dutch roll first left then right. I pulled back power and the third oscillation was toward a large pine tree. At this point the aircraft was approximately at a thirty degree bank. As I pulled back further on the power to avoid hitting the pine tree the aircraft brushed the tree and then started a slip to the left toward the ground."

The pilot reported no mechanical deficiencies with the airplane. An examination of the wreckage was performed by two FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors. Their examination revealed no mechanical deficiencies and they started and ran the airplane's engine at the accident site.

At 0855, an airport 15 miles to the north of Cole Airstrip reported the winds from 050 degrees at 6 knots.

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