On July 23, 2000, at 1325 Eastern Daylight Time, a Waco UPF7, N32162, was substantially damaged when it collided with trees during an aborted takeoff from the Flying Circus Airport (3VA3), Warrenton, Virginia. The certificated airline transport pilot and two passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the local orientation flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot/owner of the accident airplane was interviewed by telephone at his home. He said he was providing airplane rides at the Flying Circus Airport prior to a scheduled airshow. The Flying Circus Airport had a turf runway oriented north/south approximately 2,000 feet in length. Trees and powerlines approximately 60 feet in height were beyond the north end.

The pilot said the Waco was an open-cockpit biplane with fore and aft pilot stations. He said he flew the airplane from the aft pilot station and that the passengers sat in the forward pilot's station, which was configured for two people. The pilot stated that he had performed a total of six takeoffs prior to the accident flight, three without passengers and three with passengers.

According to the pilot, "I've owned the airplane since March, and I've been flying into Flying Circus since May. We were probably at maximum gross weight for the airplane, but this was not my first ride of the day.

"The takeoff roll was kind of sluggish. We were in the air but not climbing. I put it back on the ground and didn't get it stopped. Maybe I should have put it on the ground right away. I've been flying for 40 years and I guess there was some of the thinking 'I got it off the last time', so I just kept going."

In a telephone interview, a pilot-rated witness said he had just arrived at the Flying Circus Airport when the accident airplane began its takeoff roll. He said:

"I heard an airplane go by at a high rpm. I said to my wife, 'That doesn't sound right'. It sounded like it was missing and carrying on."

The pilot performed a forced landing to a soybean field adjacent to the runway and the airplane collided with trees at the north end.

An aviation safety inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spoke with the owner of another Waco UPF7. According to the record of interview:

"[The witness] stated that he had flown the subject airplane from his strip. 'It was a dog and used all of the runway. The airplane has a Curtis Reed prop pitched for cruise. My Waco has a Hamilton Standard prop set for climb pitch'."

The pilot said he calculated weight and balance figures and determined the maximum useful load for the airplane. He further stated that he determined the maximum allowable gross weight for the pilot's station was 250 pounds.

The pilot said he based his performance planning on figures he obtained from an Internet site. He said that based on his calculations and flight testing, he found the figures to be accurate.

When questioned, the pilot said there were no mechanical deficiencies with the airplane. He said, "It felt okay, the engine sounded good."

The airplane and engine were examined at the scene on August 1, 2000. The leading edges and the outboard left and right sections of the upper wing were damaged by impact. The propeller displayed a slight aft bend in one of the blades. The engine and its associated accessories appeared undamaged. The cockpit areas were intact.

According to the pilot, the maximum engine rpm attainable on the ground with brakes applied was 1,750 to 1,800 rpm. He said that at lift off, at 60 mph, the engine "...would pick up another 50 or so rpm. It would be 1,850 to 1,900 rpm." The pilot said the maximum allowable rpm, or redline, for the engine was 2,050 rpm. He said that 2,050 rpm was achieved in level flight and full throttle at 125 mph.

A loaner propeller was installed; the engine started immediately, and ran smoothly without interruption. The engine was warmed and a magneto check was performed at 1,400 rpm. The magneto check on the left side resulted in a 50-rpm drop. The rpm drop on the right side was 150 rpm. A subsequent magneto check on both the left and right magnetos resulted in a 50-rpm drop. The engine was accelerated and only 1,580 to 1,590 rpm was achieved at full throttle.

The engine was stopped and the engine controls and fuel and air filters were inspected. The engine was restarted and accelerated to 1,000 rpm. The magneto switch was placed on the left only, and the engine was accelerated to 1,600 rpm smoothly and without interruption. Engine power was reduced to 1,000 rpm and the magneto switch was selected to the right magneto. The engine would not accelerate with the application of throttle and engine power would randomly start and stop.

The front and rear sets of spark plugs were switched to the opposite position in their respective cylinders. The engine was started and the previous run was duplicated. The power interruptions were experienced again with only the right magneto selected.

A review of weight and balance data for N32162 revealed the airplane was approximately 2,637 pounds at takeoff. The maximum allowable gross weight for the airplane was 2,650 pounds.

Weather reported at Manassas, Virginia, 14 miles northeast of Flying Circus Airport was clear skies with winds from 040 degrees at 4 knots. The temperature was 75 degrees and the dewpoint was 57 degrees.

The pilot reported approximately 20,500 hours of flight experience, largely in air transport category airplanes. He reported 2,000 hours of experience in tail-wheeled airplanes, 80 hours of which were in the Waco.

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