On January 8, 2000, about 2100 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-32R-301T, N8463X, was substantially damaged as it departed Farr Field Airport (ME33), Harpswell, Maine. The certificated private pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that was destined for Portland International Jetport (PWM), Portland Maine. No flight plan had been filed for the flight that was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot reported that the flight originated from Bedford, Massachusetts (BED), earlier in the day, and he landed at ME33 during the day. He had kept his fuel load low, and planned on a short flight to PWM to refuel prior to returning to BED.

The pilot reported that when he arrived at the airport for departure, it was a dark night, with no moon. The runway was below the level of surrounding trees and he did not notice a wind. He elected to depart on runway 32, and a vehicle was driven to the departure end of the runway and pointed toward the airplane with the lights on.

The pilot further reported in the NTSB Form 6120.1/2:

"...immediately upon rotation the trees on both sides disappeared from sight. That's because the nose was up and the wing tip lights do not point outward but somewhat inward from the wingtips. So, with a dark sky above, I was effectively IMC the second I lifted off... reflexively went to the instruments to check attitude and heading but I had not anticipated that would I have to do so. Precious seconds were lost. I had just gotten my scan going when my wife [spoke]...It caused me to look outside, just in time to see the top branches of a tree lit by the right wingtip light. There was no time to react: the branches impacted with a loud thud. I do not know whether a slight wind aloft pushed me into a drift or whether I was too slow going from visual to instruments and allowed a small turn...."

The pilot continued with the takeoff, and flew toward PWM. En route he retracted the wing flaps and landing gear, and then noticed a flutter through the control wheel. Nearing PWM, he declared an emergency and landed without further incident.

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who examined the airplane, reported that the right horizontal stabilator was substantially damaged with leading edge damage, and the spar bent rearward. In addition, the right main landing gear was bent rearward.

Wind data from Brunswick Naval Air Station (NHZ), located 8 nautical miles (NM) north; and from PWM, located 15 NM west, revealed winds from 220 degrees at 14 knots, and 210 degrees at 10 knots respectively.

According to the pilot, and data from the FAA, ME33 was an unlighted field with a turf surface. The runway was 1,900 feet long and 100 feet wide. The pilot reported that trees lined both sides of the runway, and the runway surface was firm.

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