On November 25, 1997, about 1050 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-140, N1816J, was substantially damaged when it struck trees shortly after takeoff from the Geauga County Airport, Middlefield, Ohio. The certificated private pilot and passenger were seriously injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

In an interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, a witness stated he observed the pilot perform a preflight inspection of the airplane, back taxi down the runway towards the approach end of runway 28, and perform an engine run-up. The witness observed the takeoff roll, and noted that about 2,500 feet down the runway the airplane was about 200-300 feet above the ground, but the engine "did not sound right."

Another witness observed the airplane as it was clipping trees and flying through high tension power lines. He did not hear any engine noise, and could not remember if the propeller was turning. He saw the airplane impact the ground in approximately a 45 degree nose down angle.

In a telephone interview, the pilot stated the airplane was kept in a heated hanger and had not been flown for over a month prior to the accident flight. He performed a preflight inspection of the airplane and an engine run-up, which included the application of carburetor heat. He then taxied into position for takeoff and applied full power. The airplane accelerated and lifted off normally. The pilot said he departed with "2 notches" of flaps and maintained an airspeed of 75 knots during the initial climb. Shortly after takeoff the airplane's engine gradually lost power, and the pilot had to lower the airplane's nose to the horizon to maintain an airspeed of 75 knots. The pilot said the engine continued to lose power, and during a turn to avoid some houses the airplane struck power lines. The pilot did not look at the airplane's RPM instrument during the accident sequence.

A review of the airplane's airframe and engine log books revealed the accident flight was the airplane's first flight after an annual inspection, which had been performed the day before the accident. An entry made in the airplane's engine log book stated, the airplane's carburetor was removed, disassembled and it's two piece venturi was replaced with a one piece venturi, per Precision Airmotive Service Bulletin # MSA-2.

On scene examination of the wreckage was performed by an FAA Inspector. The airplane was using automotive gasoline per a Supplemental Type Certificate. The engine was retained and a test run was conducted under the supervision of the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge on March 12, 1998. The engine test was performed at several airflow settings. At an airflow rate of 900 pounds, which according to a representative of the engine manufacturer represented the high limit test specification for a new O-320 engine, the engine produced 2,579 RPM, a manifold pressure of 27.0 inches of Hg, and a fuel flow rate of 87 pounds per hour. It was noted that the propeller flange was bent, and the propeller was observed to wobble. Additionally, a tear-down and flow check of the carburetor failed to reveal any abnormalities.

At the time of the accident, winds reported at an airport about 21 miles southeast of the accident site were from 200 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 17 knots.

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