On August 6, 2006, about 1130 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-46-350P (Malibu Mirage), N9227U, was substantially damaged during takeoff from Bellefonte Airport, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot and five passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the planned flight to Erie International Airport, Erie, Pennsylvania. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to the pilot's written statement, the airplane's annual inspection was completed 3 days prior to the accident. On the day of the accident, the pilot completed a previous flight to check all of the airplane's systems after the inspection. No discrepancies were noted, except for a pressurization leak that he was already aware of. Prior to the accident flight, the pilot's weight and balance calculations revealed that the airplane was 50 pounds below the maximum gross takeoff weight, and within the center-of-gravity limits. The pilot added that review of takeoff performance data revealed that for the given weight and density altitude, the airplane needed 1,800 feet to 2,000 feet of runway, depending on the wind.
The pilot started the engine, taxied, and performed a run-up with no discrepancies noted. The flaps were extended 10 degrees, in preparation for a normal takeoff on runway 25; a 3,640-foot-long, 40-foot-wide, asphalt runway. The pilot taxied the airplane to an area about 50 to 100 feet prior to the runway, which provided additional takeoff roll distance. He then applied brakes, applied engine power, and noted that all gauges were "green." The manifold pressure climbed above 30 inches of barometric pressure, indicating that the turbocharger was functioning, and the manifold pressure indicator stopped below redline as the pilot released the brakes. During the takeoff roll, at 45 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS), the pilot again noted that all gauges were "green." He then voiced that the airspeed was alive, and crosschecked his instruments with the copilot side. At 80 KIAS, the nose rose a bit higher than needed, possibly due to a trim setting. The pilot pushed forward and the airplane flew in ground effect.
The pilot further stated that the airplane accelerated to 90 knots, but did not climb out of ground effect. He continued to hold forward pressure on the yoke, and the airplane began a "very slow" climb. The pilot decided to continue the takeoff as the airplane was nearing the end of the runway. During the slow climb, the pilot elected to "clean up" the airplane by retracting the landing gear and the 10 degrees of flap extension. The airplane subsequently sank at the end of the runway, and the pilot decided to abort the takeoff rather than risk a stall. He believed that the tailskid struck a light at the end of the runway.
The airplane overran the runway, came to rest in a field, and a postcrash fire ensued. All occupants egressed safely before the fire consumed the airplane.
Examination of the wreckage by representatives from the airframe and engine manufacturers, under the supervision of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, revealed that the elevator trim drum displayed 12 exposed threads. A representative from the airframe manufacturer stated that 12 exposed threads was consistent with a nose-up elevator trim setting; with 14 to 15 exposed threads equating to a full nose-up elevator trim setting, and 7 to 8 exposed threads equivalent to a neutral elevator trim setting.
The engine was subsequently test run at the manufacturer's facility on September 14, 2006, under the supervision of an FAA inspector. During the test run, a full throttle manifold pressure of 39.58 inches of barometric pressure was achieved, at 2,417 rpm. Further examination revealed that when the throttle lever was placed to the full power position, there was approximately 1/4 inch of travel yet to be obtained by the variable absolute pressure controller (VAPC).
The engine was test run again with a dynamometer on October 10, 2006, under the supervision of a Safety Board investigator. The test run revealed that at a full throttle setting, the engine produced 334.2 Brake Horsepower (BHP); however, the engine was type certificated for 350 BHP. The VAPC was then set up per the specifications listed in Lycoming Service Instruction 1431 Supplement No. 2. After which, the engine produced 347.1 BHP at the full throttle setting.
Review of a maintenance invoice and aircraft logbooks revealed that during the airplane's most recent annual inspection, "...Injector throttle arm spliner not lined up; removed & replaced in proper position; adjusted throttle arm spline so they meet..." There was no mention of compliance with Lycoming Service Instruction 1431 Supplement No. 2 with regards to the throttle adjustment.
Review of a PA-46-350P (Malibu Mirage) airplane flight manual (AFM) revealed the following procedure for a normal takeoff:
"...Flaps - 0 to 10; Trim - Set; Power - SET TO MAXIMUM; Liftoff - 80-85 KIAS; Climb Speed - 90-95 KIAS; Landing Gear (when straight ahead landing on runway not possible) - UP; Flaps - RETRACT..."
Although the AFM did not specifically mention climb performance with regards to flap retraction during a normal takeoff, review of FAA-H-8083-3, Airplane Flying Handbook revealed:
"...The airplane will pick up speed rapidly after it becomes airborne. Once a positive rate of climb is established, the flaps and landing gear can be retracted (if equipped)..."
Although the pilot was not performing a short field takeoff, further review of the respective section in the Airplane Flying Handbook revealed:
"...On short-field takeoffs, the flaps and landing gear should remain in the takeoff position until clear of obstacles (or as recommended by the manufacturer) and Vy has been established. It is generally unwise for the pilot to be looking in the cockpit or reaching for flap and landing gear controls until obstacle clearance is assured. When the Vy has stabilized, the gear (if equipped) and then the flaps should be retracted. It is usually advisable to raise the flaps in increments to avoid sudden loss of lift and settling of the airplane..."
Review of the AFM revealed Vy was 110 knots.
The reported weather at an airport approximately 3 miles southwest of the accident site, at 1143, was: wind from 250 degrees at 3 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky clear; temperature 79 degrees F; dew point 61 degrees F; altimeter 30.23 inches Hg. The airport elevation was 1,071 feet msl, and the density altitude at the time of the accident was approximately 2,487 feet msl.