On July 8, 1997, approximately 0815 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-18-135, N3253B, registered to and being flown by a private pilot, was destroyed during an inflight collision with terrain while maneuvering, immediately after takeoff at a private airstrip approximately six miles north of Biddle, Montana. The pilot and his wife sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was personal, was to have been operated under 14CFR91, and was destined for the pilot's residence airstrip, 18 miles north of Ashland, Montana.

The pilot was interviewed by an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Flight Standards District office, Helena, Montana (refer to ATTACHMENT I). Accordingly, the pilot reported that he took off downhill and to the northeast with a left quartering tail wind from the southwest of approximately 5-8 knots. He rotated at between 40-45 miles per hour and shortly thereafter crossed over a bluff where the terrain dropped off and passed over an area populated with deciduous trees (refer to photograph 1). Upon crossing over the trees, the aircraft begain to settle, and the pilot entered a left turn toward the west. Shortly after clearing the tree line, the aircraft impacted the terrain, slid to a stop, and then caught fire. The pilot and his wife exited the aircraft, and shortly thereafter, the aircraft was consumed by the post crash fire.

The FAA inspector examined both the takeoff area and the crash site. He reported that the aircraft came to rest approximately 90 feet south of the edge of the tree line and approximately 600 feet north of the bluff. The distance between the initial ground impact site and the aircraft's final resting place was approximately 49 feet. The initial ground impact site had several pieces of landing light Plexiglas scattered on the ground. The aircraft's landing light was installed in the leading edge of the left wing just outboard of the strut attach point. The left wing was observed to be deformed upwards at this location, with some twist evident (refer to photograph 2). The aircraft's detached propeller and spinner were observed approximately 24 feet south of the initial ground impact site near a ground impression that match the shape of the propeller spinner (refer to photograph 3). The pilot reported that there was no mechanical malfunction with the aircraft or its powerplant.

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