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On September 12, 2004, approximately 1810 Pacific daylight time, a Beech A-36, N100EV, impacted a stand of dense brush and an enclosed equipment hauling trailer during an aborted takeoff at Evergreen Skyranch, Auburn, Washington. The commercial pilot and two of his passenger received serious burn injuries, and the third passenger received minor injuries. The aircraft, which was owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed by the post-impact fire. The local 14 CFR Part 91 personal pleasure flight was being operated in visual meteorological conditions. No flight plan had been filed. The ELT, which was activated by the impact sequence, was turned off at the scene.
On the day of the accident, the pilot was entertaining guests at his home at Evergreen Skyranch. Around 1730 he invited the guests to accompany him on a sightseeing flight around the local area. Shortly thereafter, the pilot performed a normal preflight on the aircraft, which had been sitting overnight on the taxiway area in front of his house. He said that he took special care to check for water in the fuel samples because the aircraft had been sitting out overnight, in what was at times heavy rain. The preflight turned up no system anomalies, but the pilot did find that when he drained the left tank the fuel sample did yield about one inch of water in the nine inch long fuel sampler. In addition, the sample taken from the right tank and the fuel strainer sump revealed traces of water. Prior to starting the engine, the pilot took a second sample of fuel from the left tank, and that sample did not contain any further water contamination. In a post-accident interview, when asked if he had rocked the wings of the aircraft in an attempt to dislodge any additional trapped water, he said that he had not. He further stated that in the time that he had owned the aircraft, approximately one month, this was the first time that he had seen anything besides a very small trace amount of water in a fuel sample.
The pilot then loaded his passengers and provided them with some emergency instructions. He and an adult male passenger were in the front two seats, and two relatively light young adults were seated in the two most aft seats. After confirming that there were approximately 65 gallons of fuel on board, the pilot started the engine and let it warm up with the aircraft still parked on the taxiway pad where it had been overnight. After the engine had warmed sufficiently, the pilot performed a magneto and propeller check, both of which indicated normal operation. Then, just before the pilot was getting ready to start his taxi to the runway, a friend of his, who was inbound to Evergreen Skyranch at that time, transmitted over the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) that he was entering the traffic pattern for landing. At that point, because he believed his friend was arriving in order to visit with him, the pilot of N100EV decided to shut down the aircraft's engine and delay his takeoff until his friend had landed and taxied to his house. After the other pilot landed, the pilot of N100EV and the other pilot carried on a brief conversation over the radio, whereupon the pilot of N100EV decided to go ahead with the short sightseeing flight, and to join the guests afterward. He therefore restarted the engine, checked and set the instruments, and then initiated his taxi to the north end of the runway over the uneven undulating grass taxi area. Once he was clear of the area in front of his house, where other individuals where watching the activities, he performed another propeller and magneto check, and completed his pre-takeoff checklist, intentionally leaving the flaps in the full up position. Once he reached the north end of the runway, the pilot turned the aircraft to the south (runway 16) and initiated the takeoff roll.
In his written statement, the pilot said that during the take off roll, the aircraft accelerated normally up to the point of rotation. He said that it felt like the aircraft then lifted off the ground, but could not sustain a climb at the normal rotation and liftoff angle. He said that he therefore lowered the nose of the aircraft in an attempt to gain more airspeed, which according to the pilot, "...resulted in the sensation of a momentary surge of power." But, since he felt that the aircraft was just barely above the ground, and he didn't want the nose gear to contact the runway surface, the pilot increased the pitch angle "...in order to get a little more altitude to safely accelerate to best climb speed." But, since the aircraft did not climb, the pilot lowered the nose, and then decided to put the aircraft back on the ground and abort the takeoff. He stated that he landed on the last third of the runway, and then aimed toward a private taxiway in an area off the south end of the runway. As he turned toward the taxiway, he noticed that there where some people in front of a hangar near the taxiway, so he turned to the right, away from those individuals, and toward an area near where there was some thick brush and an enclosed utility trailer. His statement said that he thought he could absorb the airplanes energy by hitting the trailer and bouncing the trailer forward.
In a post-accident person-to-person interview with the Investigator-In-Charge (IIC), the pilot stated that although he was not sure, he thought the aircraft may have been as high as 20 feet in the air when it was almost half way down the runway, but that the engine then began to cough and miss. That made him think that he was experiencing induction icing, so he lowered the nose, hoping that the expected acceleration might help the problem. He stated that at that point the engine accelerated and seemed to be at full power, so he thought everything was going to be fine if he continued the takeoff. But, a few seconds later, when he was about two-thirds of the way down the runway, the engine started coughing and dieing out again. He said that he then decided to abort the takeoff, and seeing that he was not going to be able to stop by the end of the runway surface, he headed toward an open area off the south end of the runway where there was a trailer that he believed was empty. According to witnesses, the aircraft impacted the trailer and some brush at about the same time, and then a large ball of flame immediately engulfed the trailer and the front of the aircraft. Immediately thereafter the back seat passengers exited the aft door, and after a momentary problem with the right seat passenger not knowing how to open the over-wing passenger door, the two individuals in the front seat exited the aircraft.
As part of the investigative process, the Investigator-in-Charge interviewed or took written statements from a number of witnesses. The three witnesses that were the closest to the aircraft during the initial part of the takeoff sequence were the pilot's wife, the friend who had flown in just prior to the pilot taxiing out for departure, and another pilot who lives across the runway and about 500 feet further north. All three of these witnesses where adamant in stating that the aircraft's main wheels did not lift off from the grass runway from the time it started its takeoff roll until it went out of their direct line of sight to the south (a little over half way down the runway). The pilot's friend stated that he could not fully see the aircraft's undercarriage during the first few hundred feet of the takeoff roll, but that when it became fully visible he could see that the nose wheel was off the ground, and the aircraft was at a higher than normal pitch attitude for a takeoff roll. He said that as the aircraft continued the takeoff roll, the nose wheel was high in the air, but the aircraft appeared to be going too slow to lift off. He said that as the aircraft neared his position, the nose wheel dropped suddenly and rapidly to the ground, but only stayed there for two or three seconds before rising to the nose-high position again. He said that as the aircraft passed him, the nose wheel came down a second time, but within a second or two, went back into the air. He said that the nosewheel may have come down a third time, but this was near the departure end of the runway. He further stated that by the time the aircraft passed the runway midpoint, it was clear that there was something wrong, so he ran toward the runway to get a better view. He reported that he never saw the aircraft lift off the ground.
During the first couple of interviews, the pilot's wife said that as the aircraft passed her position, the nose of the aircraft appeared higher in the air than she was used to seeing, and it appeared to be going slow as it approached the area in front of their house. She said that when the aircraft passed her position without lifting off, she became convinced that something was very wrong, so she turned and ran toward the house to dial 911. About two months later, while talking to the IIC in the presence of the accident pilot (her husband), the wife stated that she was no longer sure whether the aircraft had remained on the ground or lifted off.
The pilot who lived across the runway said that he was not paying close attention as the aircraft first began its takeoff roll, but as it got to a point about one third of the way down the runway, he noticed that it had not lifted off, and that got his attention. He said that he watched the aircraft as it passed the halfway point of the runway, but that it went out of his view as it continued further south. He reported that during the time that he could clearly see the aircraft, the nose wheel remained higher than normal off the ground, but the main gear never lifted off.
The witnesses near the south end of the field all said that they could not see the entire aircraft until it reached a point at least one-third of the way down the runway. This was because the midpoint of the runway is higher in elevation than either end. All of these witnesses said that as the aircraft came into full view near the half-way point of the runway, its nose was high in the air and the main gear were still on the runway surface. Most of these witnesses said that the aircraft appeared to lift off momentarily somewhere between 900 feet and 500 feet from the departure end of the runway. All that saw it lift off estimated that it was in the air for around five seconds or less, and most believed that it only got as high as two to five feet above the surface. One witness thought that the aircraft could have reached a height of 10 feet, but only for a moment. One witness who was watching the aircraft closely said that it looked like the aircraft may have struck the bottom of its tail on the runway surface just prior to it lifting off. All of those that reported hearing the aircraft's engine said that it was at a very high power setting either until it reached the very end of the runway, or until it was within the last 100 feet or so before the runway's south end. There were differing opinions as to when the aircraft’s nose wheel came back down onto the runway surface. Some thought it was as early as about 200 feet from the end of the runway, others thought it stayed off the ground until the aircraft departed the runway's south end.
The passenger in the right front seat said that the aircraft initially seemed to accelerate quickly to a certain speed, which it reached about one-quarter of the way down the runway, but then it stayed at that speed until the pilot pulled the power back and aborted. He said that except for a few brief moments, the nose of the aircraft was high enough that he could not see out the front, and he therefore looked out the side and as far forward as he could. He further stated that it felt to him like the aircraft did not lift off until very near the end of the runway, and then it was only for a very few seconds. He said that it was very obvious when the pilot aborted because he quickly pulled the power off, the nose came down hard, and he could feel the deceleration from braking. He also said that although he was not sure at what point the pilot aborted, he does remember seeing the bush and trailer in front of them almost immediately after the abort was initiated. This witness said that he did not specifically remember hearing any problem with the engine, but since he is not a pilot and was not familiar with the aircraft, he was not sure that he would have detected an intermittent or momentary problem.
One of the passengers in the most-aft seats was interviewed, and he stated that at the beginning of the takeoff, the aircraft accelerated fairly quickly, but by the time it got to the pilot's house (about one-third of the way down the runway) it was no longer accelerating. He said that the nose of the aircraft was held high, but that he could see forward fairly well by looking along the side of the fuselage. He was not sure if the aircraft lifted off at all, but he said there was a short period of time near the end of the runway where it may have lifted two or three feet into the air. He said that at a point just over half way down the runway, he heard the pilot use an expletive and then yell at the aircraft to "get off." He also said that as the aircraft neared the end of the runway he heard the pilot say "We're not going to make it up (or off)." Since he was looking forward along the side of the aircraft, he saw the road and fence coming up, and he said that after the aircraft went through the fence, it turned sideways and slid into the trailer. He reported that the engine sounded as if it was running fine, and he did not notice any popping, missing, rough running or obvious power loss.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The ground track indicated that the aircraft exited the left (East) side of the runway about 100 to 200 feet before its southern end. It then crossed over a ditch on the north side of a road (SE 376th) that runs east-west directly off the south end of the runway. It then crossed over the road itself, went through a barbed wire fence, and then impacted the shrubs and the trailer about 270 feet past the south end of the runway. On the north side of the road it was very hard to differentiate the ground track created by N100EV from those of other aircraft that had taxied in that area, or from the tracks of vehicles that had driven through that area in response to this accident. An inspection of the grass area on the north side of the road did not show any obvious damage to the surface from aircraft braking action. There was also no clear indication of braking action in the sand and gravel on the northern edge of SE 376th. As the track neared the south side of SE 376th the braking action of the main gear had clearly scrubbed most of the sand, gravel, and dirt from the asphalt area that the tires went through. Also, from the point where the aircraft departed the south side of SE 376th, until the point where it impacted the trailer, much of the grass under the main gear tire tracks had been laid flat, shredded, and torn loose from the surface.
All of the aircraft structure was present at the point were it impacted the trailer. The gear here found in the down position, and the flaps were found to be in the full-up position. The elevator trim was found set within the normal takeoff range. The forward portion of the fuselage, from the firewall to just forward of the aft passenger seats had been consumed by the intense fire. The empennage and the most outboard six feet of both wings did not suffer thermal damage, but the wing leading edges were extensively damaged from impacting the bushes and the trailer. The engine and its accessories were free of any significant thermal damage.
The engine, along with its accessories, were inspected at the accident site, and then shipped to the custody of an FAA Airworthiness Inspector for an inspection and test run at the Teledyne Continental Motors engine test facility in Mobile, Alabama. Under the oversight of the FAA Inspector, the engine underwent a pre-run inspection, and then was placed in the engine test cell for operational testing. During this test series, the engine started quickly without hesitation or stumbling, and after being allowed to warm up, underwent a series of five-minute test runs at various power settings (1,200 rpm, 1,600 rpm, 2,100 rpm, full power - 2855 rpm). After the completion of this series of five-minute run tests, the engine was advanced to full-throttle from idle six different times without any hesitation, stumbling, or interruptions of power. Pressure values were taken from the propeller governor circuit during test runs at 2,460 rpm and 2,855 rpm, and both were within acceptable limits.
After the engine test run was complete, the propeller governor was removed and sent to the custody of the FAA Aircraft Certification Office in Wichita, Kansas, where an airworthiness inspector oversaw its operational test and teardown inspection at the facility of McCauley Propellers. As a result of that test/inspection profile, it was determined that the governor had not suffered any impact or accident related damage, that its function was within acceptable limits, and that it responded properly to control lever inputs. Upon disassembly it was determined that it was free of any contamination, and that there was little or no wear on the internal parts.
ADDITIONAL DATA AND INFORMATION
After testing of the engine and the propeller governor, the wreckage was released to CTC Services Aviation (LAD) on August 2, 2005. At the time of release, the aircraft was located at the storage yard of AvTech Services, LLC, in Maple Valley, Washington.
The morning after the accident, the IIC walked the full length of the runway and also along the area where the pilot taxied out to the point where he turned the aircraft around at the north end of the runway. During that inspection of the runway and taxiway surface, the IIC watched two aircraft taxi to the north end of the runway and initiate a takeoff roll. In both cases, due to areas of uneven terrain, there where times during their taxi when their wings rocked at least as much as a pilot would normally rock an aircraft's wings by hand in order to dislodge possible trapped fuel.
During a post-accident discussion with the IIC, the pilot stated that his "mistake" was not aborting the takeoff when he first experienced a problem with the way that the engine was running. He further stated that if he had aborted at that point in time, he was sure that he would have been able to stop prior to the aircraft reaching the end of the runway. When the pilot filled out the NTSB Form 6120.1/2, under the section that asks for recommendations of how this accident could have been prevented, the pilot wrote, "Shut down sooner."