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On August 12, 2000, about 1230 Eastern Daylight Time, a Cessna 172, N8874B, was substantially damaged while departing the Windwood Fly-In Resort Airport (WV62), Davis, West Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot and two passengers were seriously injured, and a third passenger was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local sightseeing flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
The pilot stated that before boarding the airplane, he and the owner observed the windsock. The windsock indicated a direct crosswind from the northwest, "330 and 10-12 kts." According to the pilot, the owner suggested a takeoff from Runway 24, "since the obstacles were less significant at that end and the area was more open in case anything happened." As the pilot taxied to Runway 24, the wind continued out of the northwest, "the windsock shifting back and forth from approximately 320 - 340..."
The pilot completed his checklist items, and extended the flaps 10 degrees. He taxied onto Runway 24, applied full power and brakes, then released the brakes and performed a short-field takeoff. As the airplane lifted off, the pilot checked the windsock again, and then realized that the winds were from the northeast, favoring Runway 6. However, the takeoff was continued. About 50 feet above the ground, the airplane was no longer climbing, and began to "settle". The pilot turned to the left to avoid a house, and the airplane "stalled" to the left.
The pilot added:
"The only thing I can think of that could produce [the settling] is the combination of the tailwind, weight, and altitude."
The airplane's owner/operator stated that the pilot had not flown scenic rides in the accident airplane before the day of the accident. The pilot was given an orientation of the airplane on the ground. He was then instructed by the owner to take a solo flight to familiarize himself with the airplane and local area. The owner added that the winds were varying the day of the accident. The pilot departed Runway 6 for his solo flight, but then departed Runway 24 for the accident flight.
Witnesses stated that the pilot returned uneventfully from his solo flight, and the passengers boarded the airplane. During the accident flight, the pilot utilized 10 degrees of flaps for takeoff. The witnesses said the takeoff seemed normal, but then the airplane appeared to "settle" as it approached trees at the end of the runway. The airplane then "nosed up" and "stalled to the left." They added that they heard the engine operating until impact.
One witness stated that the winds were from the northeast when the accident flight departed.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight: located approximately 39 degrees, 03.05 minutes north longitude; and 79 degrees, 26.19 minutes west latitude.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration second class medical certificate was issued on July 27, 2000.
According to the pilot's logbook, he had a total flight experience of about 293 hours. Of which, about 57 hours were in the make and model accident airplane. However, prior to the day of the accident, the pilot had not flown the make and model accident airplane since August 29, 1996. Since January 29, 1999, the pilot had been exclusively flying 200-horsepower aircraft of a different make.
The airplane had been operated for approximately 43 hours since the last annual inspection, performed on May 5, 2000.
WV62 was located about 5 miles south of Davis, West Virginia, near mountainous terrain. The airport elevation was 3,210 feet above mean-sea-level. The single runway (6/24) was a 3,000-foot long asphalt runway. Trees were located at both ends of the runway, and a house was located at the departure end of Runway 24.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather site was located about 1/2 mile north of WV62. According to NOAA, the approximate average wind from 1200 to 1230 was from 333 degrees at 11 knots. The average temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit.
Comparison of the field elevation at WV62, to the average temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit, revealed a density altitude of approximately 4,068 feet.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 13, 2000. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage was located in the yard of a private residence. It was intact, inverted, and oriented about a 070-degree heading. Flight control continuity was established from all control surfaces to the cockpit area.
The right wing exhibited impact damage along the leading edge, and compression wrinkles were observed on the underside of the wing. The wing was partially separated about 5 feet from the wingtip. The aileron was in the approximate neutral position, and the flap was partially extended.
The left wing also exhibited impact damage along the leading edge, and compression wrinkles were observed on the underside of the wing. The wing was partially separated at the wingroot. The aileron was partially deflected downward, and the flap was partially extended.
The aft fuselage and empennage was buckled, partially separated, and twisted to the right. The elevator and rudder appeared undamaged.
Fuel was found in both fuel tanks. It appeared clear and light blue, consistent with 100LL aviation fuel. The owner stated that the airplane departed with approximately "half tanks" of 100LL.
The cockpit area was crushed, and part of the instrument panel was damaged. The flap selector handle was found in a position that corresponded to a 10 degree flap extension. The elevator trim control was found in the "Takeoff" setting.
The airplane was equipped with a Continental O-300, 145-horsepower engine. Both propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouging, chordwise scratching, and curling at the tips. The top spark plugs were removed from the engine for inspection. They appeared light gray in color, and their electrodes were intact. When the propeller was rotated by hand, crankshaft and camshaft continuity was confirmed. Valve train continuity was confirmed, and thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. When rotated by hand, both magnetos produced spark at all six towers.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Toxicological testing performed on the pilot by the Ruby County Memorial Hospital, Morgantown, West Virginia, was negative for drugs and alcohol.
WEIGHT AND BALANCE
According to aircraft records, the basic empty weight of the airplane was 1,303.8 pounds. Because the owner of the airplane stated that the fuel tanks were "half-full" when the accident flight departed, 108 pounds were estimated as the weight of fuel on board.
According to medical records: the pilot weighed 160 pounds, the front seat passenger weighed 222 pounds, and the left-rear seat passenger weighed 190 pounds. According to a driver's license issued on August 12, 1999, the right-rear seat passenger weighed 165 pounds.
The figures totaled an estimated gross weight of 2,148.8 pounds. The published maximum gross weight for the airplane was 2,200 pounds. The center-of-gravity was calculated to be within limits as published in an Owner's Manual.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Review of an Owner's Manual for the accident airplane revealed:
"Normal and Obstacle clearance takeoffs are preformed with flaps retracted. The use of 10 [degrees] flaps will shorten the ground run approximately 10%, but this advantage is lost in the climb to a 50 foot obstacle. However, if 10 [degrees] of flaps are used in the ground runs, it is preferable to leave them extended rather than retract them in the climb to the obstacle. The exception to this rule would be in a high altitude takeoff in hot weather where climb would be marginal with flaps 10 [degrees]."
Further review of the manual revealed the following takeoff data: at 2,200 pounds gross weight, with no wind, at 2,500 feet msl, with flaps retracted, from a hard surface, at 75 degrees Fahrenheit; required 2,200 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle.
The Owner's Manual did not address tailwinds. However, a subsequent model pilot operating handbook stated that for every 2 knots of tailwind, add 10% to the takeoff distance. According to the pilot operating handbook, the same takeoff would require 3,200 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle, if attempted in a 10-knot tailwind.
The wreckage was released to the owner on August 13, 2000.