On April 21, 2000, at 1050 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 140, N3579V, registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collapsed the left main landing gear during takeoff from the Red Lodge airport, Red Lodge, Montana. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The airplane was substantially damaged and the airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured.

During a telephone interview and subsequent written statement, the pilot reported that he had just fueled the airplane and was taking off on runway 16 for the next leg of his cross country flight to Casper, Wyoming. The wind was a quartering headwind from the left at about five to 10 knots, with gusts to 15 knots. The pilot stated that during the takeoff ground roll, the tail came up and the airplane lifted off at about 50 mph. The airplane attained an altitude of about five feet when it began to drift to the right due to a gust of wind from the left. The pilot corrected with rudder control, however, the airplane continued to drift to the right and would not accelerate or climb as expected. The pilot reported that the airplane would not clear the fence to the right of the runway, and he opted to reduce power and land to the right side of the runway. During the landing roll, while turning to avoid a collision with a fence, the left main landing gear collapsed.

The pilot reported no mechanical failures or malfunctions, and that the engine was producing full power.

At the time of the accident, Red Lodge was not reporting the weather. The surface observations for Billings, Montana, located approximately 45 nautical miles northeast, was reporting at 0956, a temperature of 57 degrees, with an altimeter setting of 30.03" Hg. Density altitude calculated for the field elevation at Red Lodge of 5,763 feet, under the conditions reported from Billings, was approximately 6,864 feet.

The pilot reported that he calculated a density altitude of 6,267 feet utilizing the altimeter setting from Billings of 30.04" Hg, and a temperature of approximately 50 degrees. The pilot then calculated via the Cessna 140 performance data, which is based upon a gross weight of 1,450 pounds and a standard Sensenich 74FK-49 propeller, at 6,000 feet, a takeoff distance of 1,343 feet, and a normal climb rate of 365 fpm. (see attached performance information)

The aircraft, however, was equipped with a McCauley CM 7150 cruise pitch propeller. The pilot stated that he felt that the reason why the aircraft would not accelerate and climb as expected, was due to the cruise pitch propeller.

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