On November 25, 1997, about 2210 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32-300, N2202U, was substantially damaged during the takeoff roll at the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport (JST), Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed for the flight which was destined for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

In a telephone interview, the pilot stated that during the takeoff roll on runway 23, he felt what seemed like "a hand shove the plane left." He continued to drift left despite using full right rudder, and full right aileron. The airplane departed the left side of the runway onto an intersecting taxiway, then returned to runway 23. The pilot said he was on the left side of runway 23, returning to the centerline, when the airplane struck a snow drift. The pilot further stated, he checked the wind about 10 minutes before his departure, and the wind was from about 280 degrees at 10 knots.

Examination of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration Inspector revealed a 1.5 foot high snowbank located on taxiway "B," extending onto runway 23 about 2 feet. The snowbank had an impression on it with paint and fiberglass chips from the airplane's left main landing gear fairing. Approximately 3 feet to the right of the impression, near the outside edge of the snowbank, was a smaller impression where the nose gear impacted. Propeller marks were found approximately 20 feet from the snowbank and continued for 30 feet. The aircraft came to rest approximately 300 feet from the snowbank off the left side of runway.

A review of the Airport Daily Inspection Report, Snow and Ice Section, for the morning of the accident revealed a "check mark" which indicated an "O.K." condition in the areas of "surface conditions," and "snowbanks."

In a telephone interview the Field Maintenance Supervisor for JST stated, snowbanks of 12 inches or higher on taxiways would indicate an "unsatisfactory" condition and any size snowbank on a runway would be considered "unsatisfactory." He also stated, the Airport Daily Inspection Report was completed on the morning of the accident; he did acknowledge it had been more than 24 hours since there was any recorded snowfall at the airport.

A weather observation taken after the accident reported the wind from 260 degrees at 17 knots, gusting to 24 knots

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