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On May 13, 2001, about 1650 hours Pacific daylight time, a Beech E33A, N464SR, impacted the runway during an aborted takeoff from the Lake Tahoe Airport, South Lake Tahoe, California. At the time of the mishap, the airplane's landing gear was in transit to the extended position. The airplane was substantially damaged. Neither the private pilot nor the three passengers was injured. The pilot had rented the airplane from South Bay Aviation, Inc., Torrance, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight that was performed under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
According to the front right-seated pilot-rated passenger, during the pretakeoff check, the pilot observed a mechanical malfunction with the throttle control knob. The pilot stated to the passenger "look at this," and he showed the passenger the loose vernier control button on the throttle knob. The passenger indicated that he observed the pilot screw the vernier control back into position. Then, the pilot proceeded to takeoff.
The pilot indicated to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that he initiated the takeoff roll from the beginning of runway 18. The airplane accelerated normally, and he felt the effect of the strong gusty wind. In an effort at increasing the airplane's rate of climb, the pilot indicated that he retracted the landing gear. Then, the airplane was pushed toward the ground by a strong downdraft. The pilot-rated passenger reported that he heard a horn going off in the cockpit.
A witness reported observing the airplane with its landing gear retracted and its wings rocking up and down. At the time, the airplane was about midfield, and approximately 30 feet above the runway's surface.
The pilot subsequently reported to the Safety Board investigator that he aborted the takeoff because he was "not satisfied with the rate of climb." The pilot indicated that he retarded the throttle and attempted to lower the landing gear. When it became evident that the airplane would touchdown before the gear was extended, he attempted to push the throttle forward but was unable. The pilot said it was stuck.
The airplane impacted the runway with the landing gear partially extended. It slid about 500 feet before coming to a stop about 1,500 feet before reaching the runway's departure end. Responding rescue personnel stated that luggage was observed inside the airplane. There was no fire.
AIRPLANE MAINTENANCE REPORT:
On May 12, the pilot departed from Torrance. The last pilot to fly the airplane prior to the accident pilot's departure reported that he had not experienced any malfunctions in the airplane. A review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed no outstanding squawks or open maintenance items at the time of the accident pilot's departure from Torrance. When the pilot rented the airplane, the recording engine tachometer registered 615.75 hours. At the time of the accident, it registered 620.37 hours.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated maximum gross weight for the accident airplane is 3,300 pounds. The operator reported that the airplane's empty weight is 2,056.5 pounds. The FAA reported that the pilot's weight (as of August, 2000) was 178 pounds. The pilot-rated passenger reported his weight is 176 pounds, his girl friend's weight is about 150 pounds, and weight of the pilot's wife is about 170 pounds. The weight of their luggage was not indicated. The pilot reported that 55 gallons of fuel were in the airplane's fuel tanks (about 330 pounds). Based upon this data, the Safety Board investigator calculates that, at the time of the accident, the airplane was operated at or within 240 pounds of its maximum gross weight.
AIRPLANE WRECKAGE EXAMINATION:
Under the Safety Board investigator's direction, an FAA certificated mechanic examined the airplane's throttle assembly. According to the mechanic, the screw on its vernier control button was found loose (unscrewed) by 8.5 complete turns. With the screw loose, the throttle's release button was not held in place and created interference with the throttle's movement. No other irregularities were noted with the throttle assembly. When the screw was tightened, the throttle, vernier control, and cable assembly system functioned normally.
AIRPORT AND METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION:
The airport's elevation is 6,264 feet mean sea level. Runway 18 is 8,544 feet long. At 1653, the airport reported its surface wind was from 210 degrees, at 8 knots. No gusts were reported. The temperature was 63 degrees Fahrenheit. The calculated density altitude was approximately 7,700 feet.
Management at the fixed base operator (FBO) reported to the Safety Board investigator that its rental records did not indicate the pilot had received a high density altitude checkout in either the accident airplane, or in any other model of rental airplane from its company.
The pilot's personal flight record logbook did not reveal that he had received any dual flight instruction in high density altitude takeoff procedures in the model of accident airplane. Also, no evidence was observed of the pilot ever having taken off in an airplane from any airport having a density altitude at or above 7,700 feet.