On November 9, 2002, at 1518 Alaska standard time, a wheel-equipped Cessna 172 airplane, N80948, sustained substantial damage when it descended and collided with wires and trees after takeoff, about 1/2 mile south of Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) local area personal flight when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by the pilot. The private certificated pilot and one passenger received minor injuries; an infant passenger was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. No flight plan was filed, nor was one required.

During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on November 9, the pilot reported he performed a preflight of the airplane that included brooming and deicing of the airplane using hot water and a squeegee. He said the engine run-up and flight control checks before departure were normal. He began the takeoff run and rotated into a climb at 50 knots. The airplane engine was developing 2,500 rpm, and the airplane began to climb at 65 knots. After the airplane traveled beyond the departure end of runway 15, the pilot indicated that the airplane entered a right slip, and the flight controls felt mushy. The airplane veered to the right and began to descend toward an area of trees. He said he pulled the engine to idle and applied full aft elevator as the airplane settled into several trees. Just prior to contacting the trees, the airplane collided with several electrical wires, but did not sever the wires. The airplane came to rest upright, with damage to the landing gear, fuselage, wings, and empennage.

In the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1) submitted by the pilot, the pilot reported that he broomed the wings and tail. He used hot water to melt ice, then a squeegee to remove water on the tail, windshield, and wings. The pilot then taxied the airplane to a fueling facility on the airport ramp. After fueling, the pilot said he checked the fuel for water, and drained the fuel tank sumps. He then taxied for takeoff, and departed runway 15. The pilot reported that he rotated the airplane at 50 knots. He said the airplane immediately began to crab to the left and the flight controls felt sluggish. He described the airplane as remaining in ground effect until reaching 65 knots. He then began a slow climb, but said the flight controls became even more sluggish, resembling an imminent stall. The pilot reported the sound of the engine began to drop as though it was losing power. He began a slow turn to the left and the right wing dropped slightly, but he leveled the wings. The pilot reported that there was no engine power and the airplane began to descend in a stalled condition. The pilot selected an open area for an emergency landing. He said he pulled the engine power to off, even though there was no power. The airplane collided with trees and settled to the ground.

On June 5, 2003, the pilot was re-interviewed by the NTSB IIC and another NTSB investigator about the circumstances of the accident. The pilot related that he utilized a coffee can to pour hot water over the airplane's surfaces, and then used a squeegee to remove any water. He indicated that in the past the facility where his airplane is parked provided propylene glycol for application on the airplane after the hot water treatment, but that product was no longer available. He also said that in the future, he would use propylene glycol to ensure all water and ice is removed from his airplane's surfaces. After deicing the airplane, the pilot taxied to another facility on the airport and purchased fuel. The pilot estimated that at least 15 minutes after deicing, he taxied from the fueling spot to begin his engine run-up. During the takeoff roll, the pilot said the engine rpm was 2,500. Once airborne, the airplane's right wing stalled, and the pilot countered the stall by moving the control wheel slightly to the left, and application of a small amount of left rudder. The pilot said he lowered the nose slightly and noticed that the sound of the engine seemed to decrease. He confirmed that the throttle was pushed all the way in. The pilot speculated that perhaps the engine oil was still too thick.

Another airplane owner, who was working on his airplane while it was parked at the same facility where the accident airplane was parked, submitted a statement to the FAA. The pilot commented that: "Major frost and ice build up on most airplanes. Mine and others around me [were] unflyable due to this."

On May 21 and 22, 2003, the accident airplane's engine was examined by the NTSB IIC and another NTSB investigator. The examination revealed that the engine contained 7 quarts of oil. Blue colored fuel was present in the gascolator without any visible contaminants. The engine had gear and valve train continuity, and thumb compression in each cylinder upon hand rotation of the engine crankshaft. The massive electrode spark plugs were clean and dry, and each had a gray appearance. Upon rotation of the magnetos, spark was produced at each lead.

Runway 15 is 2,640 feet long and 75 feet wide. The terrain, beyond the departure end of runway 15, slopes sharply downward toward a lower roadway.

At 1453, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) at Merrill Field was reporting in part: Wind, calm; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few at 20,000 feet; temperature, 34 degrees F; dew point, 27 degrees F; altimeter, 29.42 inHg.

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