On October 3, 2004, approximately 1620 central daylight time, a Lockheed 18-56 twin-engine, tail-wheel equipped airplane, N6371C, was destroyed following a loss of control during takeoff from runway 34L at Midland International Airport (MAF), near Midland, Texas. The vintage airplane was owned and operated by American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum, of Midland Texas. The airline transport rated captain, commercial certificated first officer (FO), and three passengers sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight was destined for the Boulder Municipal Airport (1V5), near Boulder, Colorado.

According to the 18,000-hour captain, the engine run up was completed before departure and "everything checked perfectly." The captain reported that he was cleared for takeoff on runway 34L, (a 9,501-foot by 50-foot runway), and was aware that a tailwind prevailed from approximately 160 degrees at 10 knots. Shortly after starting the takeoff roll, the airplane swerved to the right. The captain was able to correct back to the centerline utilizing rudder control. The airplane then swerved to the left, and full right rudder was applied but the swerve could not be corrected.

The captain further reported that by the time the airplane reached the left edge of the runway, the airplane had not reached its V2 speed (takeoff safety speed) of 110 knots. The airplane departed the left side of the runway, became airborne and shortly thereafter, the right wing dropped and contacted the ground. The airplane then spun 180 degrees, impacted the ground and slid backward, coming to rest in an upright position. The captain reported that at no time did he have reason to believe that the engines were not producing power.

According to the FO, the takeoff roll required control efforts to maintain centerline. The FO reported that the control efforts seemed ineffective and the airplane became airborne just as it was leaving the left side of the runway. The airplane then began to yaw to the right and the right wing dropped and struck the ground.

Local law authorities interviewed several eyewitnesses. Summaries of their observations are cited below.

Witness #1, was standing on the airport main ramp when he observed the airplane start its take-off roll. He stated that, " There was a tailwind of approximately 5-10 mph. As the tail came up the aircraft was swinging slightly from left to right as though having some difficulty maintaining directional control, but staying on the runway. Both engines appeared to be operating normally. I looked around to something else and then look back to see the aircraft had gone off the left side of the runway, but was continuing its take-off roll on the grass. It then became airborne slightly left wing high. Very quickly this developed into a very steep bank to the right before the right wing hit the ground. Both engines appeared to remain at full power."

Witness #2, was on the ramp area in front of the Avion Flight Center when he observed the airplane apply full power for take-off. The witness reported that the airplane "veered left then right then left" and departing off the left side of the runway. The witness then observed the tail-wheel digging into the dirt and the airplane veering right before it "lifted off skidding in ground effect." The right wing then contacted the ground and spun the airplane around.

Witnesses #3 and #4, were on the main airport ramp when they observed the airplane take-off and climb to approximately 6-10 feet above the ground before the right wing dropped and contacted the ground.

Witness #5, was on the north airport ramp facing runway 34L when he observed the airplane at an approximately altitude of 50-80 feet off the runway. He stated that, "The plane's engines were running and he didn't notice anything unusual until the right wing stated dipping down."

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration, who reported to the accident site, evaluated the damage sustained by the airplane. The inspector reported that the aft section of the fuselage and left wing were consumed in the post crash fire.

At 1644 central daylight time, the weather observation facility at Midland International Airport, Midland, Texas, was reporting the wind from 160 at 10 knots, thunderstorms, visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 1,900 feet, temperature 70 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 62 degrees Fahrenheit, and barometric pressure setting of 30.19 inches of Mercury. The density altitude was calculated by the NTSB IIC at 4,192 feet.

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