On April 2, 2004, about 1725 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 177, N88BM, collided with terrain during takeoff at California City, California. The Edwards Air Force Base Flying Club was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI), the student pilot, and two passengers, sustained minor injuries; a post crash fire destroyed the airplane. The cross-country instructional flight originated from California City about 1720, with a planned destination of Rosamond Skypark Airport, Rosamond, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

In a written statement, the CFI reported that he was attempting to takeoff on runway 24. Prior to departure, he received weather information from the automated weather observing system (AWOS), which reported that the wind was from 020 degrees at 4 knots, temperature was 64-degrees Fahrenheit, and the altimeter was 29.82 InHg. While taxiing to the runway, he observed the windsock to be limp, an indication of calm winds. During the initial climb, he accelerated the airplane to 80 miles per hour (mph) in an effort to maintain a shallow climb. About 50 to 75feet above ground level, the airplane began to decelerate and descend, while rolling and yawing to the right. The pilot applied full left rudder and right aileron and the airplane made a slight correction. Although the engine appeared to be operating smoothly at 2,500 rpm, the airplane continued in a 300-foot-per-minute decent.

Still in a roll and yaw to the right, the pilot configured the airplane in a nose high attitude, with full power. The airplane impacted the ground and the left main gear collided with a small sand dune. The collision resulted in the left wing impacting the ground and the nose gear collapsing. After a sudden deceleration the airplane came to rest and a fire erupted in the center floor area. The pilot attempted to extinguish the fire, but it immediately reignited and all four occupants exited the airplane. After egressing the airplane, the CFI estimated that the wind was from 090 degrees at 25 to 35 knots. A few minutes later, he noted that the winds became light again, followed by periodic gusts and wind shifts. The CFI reported that the airplane had no mechanical failures or malfunctions during the flight.

The terrain elevation at the airport is about 2,450 feet mean sea level. Based upon the atmospheric conditions provided by the CFI, a Safety Board computer program computed a density altitude of 3,450 feet. The gross weight was calculated by the CFI to be 2,341 pounds, which included a fuel deduction for taxi, and was based on the airplane operating with 5 quarts of oil. The airplane's published maximum gross weight is 2,350 pounds.

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