On March 30, 2002, at 1600 mountain standard time, a Piper J3F-65, N40770, failed to gain altitude and dragged a wing in the takeoff initial climb from Avi Suquilla Airport (P20), Parker, Arizona. The airplane collided with the ground and was destroyed in a ground fire about 300 yards north of the departure end of runway 1. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot/owner, who held airline transport pilot (ATP) and certified flight instructor (CFI) certificates, sustained fatal injuries; the student incurred serious injuries. The student later succumbed to her injuries on May 20, 2002. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area instructional flight that was originating at the time of the accident.

Five airport workers in the airport office observed the sequence of events. They reported that just after liftoff, the airplane assumed a nose high stall attitude and began "wallowing" with the wings rocking back and forth. The airplane never attained more than 70 feet off the ground as it flew past the departure end of runway 1, and, while still "wallowing," began a right crosswind turn. The right wingtip contacted the ground and the airplane cartwheeled to a stop and then caught fire. They immediately responded to the crash site and reported the student continually repeated, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it."

The witnesses reported that earlier in the day they had stopped by the CFI's hangar and spoke briefly with him and the student. The student was introduced as the CFI's daughter, and was receiving instruction in the airplane. The CFI was described as very proud of the airplane, which he had completely restored to its 1941 factory delivery condition. The workers saw the CFI do a very thorough preflight inspection and said that he used aviation fuel in the airplane.

On April 4, 2002, investigators from the Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The New Piper Aircraft, and Teledyne Continental Motors examined the wreckage that had been relocated to a hanger.

The airplane had sustained post impact fire damage. This damage consumed most of the exterior fabric, except for the left wing and left horizontal surface. The left wing remained attached to the fuselage; the right wing separated from the fuselage at the root. Control continuity was established to ailerons, rudder, and elevator, through cables. The fuselage frame remained mostly intact. All cockpit instruments were destroyed by fire. The seat cushions and seat belts were consumed by fire.

The engine remained attached to the mount, which had partially separated from the fuselage. Compression was produced in all four cylinders, and valve and gear train continuity was established. Due to extensive heat damage, the carburetor and magnetos were not tested. The wooden propeller was still attached at its mounting point and the blades were splintered from ground impact. No preimpact anomalies were noted with either the engine or propeller.

A toxicological test on samples from the flight instructor was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical's Institute (CAMI) Forensic Toxicological and Accident Research Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with negative results for alcohol and all screened drug substances.

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