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On October 6, 2006, at 0945 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 177, N2320Y, registered to and operated by a private pilot, collided with a power line during climb out at Berry Hill Airport (4A0), Stockbridge, Georgia. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The private pilot, and two passengers were fatally injured; one passenger died the following day. The airplane was destroyed by post impact fire. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.
A witness reported that the pilot conducted a preflight of the airplane prior to his departure. The witness said that he asked the pilot if the aircraft was within the weight and balance limitations. The pilot responded, "He felt confident that it was." According to the witness, he stood by as the pilot checked his fuel, and stated that he had "a little over ¾ tank of fuel." After the passengers boarded the airplane the pilot conducted a run-up, and taxied to runway 29. The witness said that during takeoff roll, the airplane did not get airborne until after approximately 2,000 feet down the runway. He watched the airplane "struggle" to get airborne, and he recalled that the engine was running at full power. The airplane barely cleared a tree at the departure end of the runway before "stalling" and impacting another tree. Other witnesses reported that the airplane clipped a tree and collided with power lines. Shortly thereafter, an explosion was heard. A male passenger exited the burning airplane, was assisted by witnesses.
The pilot, age 63, held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane single, multi-engine land, and instrument ratings issued on September 13, 1970, and a second-class medical certificate dated December 27, 2005, with restrictions for corrective lenses, and not valid for any class after. The pilot's logbooks were fire damaged, and were not legible for review. Review of information on file with the FAA Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot had a total flight time of 692 hours.
The four-seat, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 17700120, was manufactured in 1967. It was powered by a Lycoming O-320-E2D 180-hp engine and equipped with a McCauley model 1C172 fixed-pitch propeller. Review of the airplane logbooks revealed that the last annual inspection was completed on April 2, 2006, at a recorded tachometer reading of 2590.5 hours. The Hobbs meter and tachometer were destroyed by post crash fire. A field engine overhaul was conducted on December 30, 1981, at a recorded tachometer reading of 2033.0 hours.
4A0 is a private-owned airport that has a field elevation of 770 feet. Runway 29 is 3,000 feet long and 40 feet wide. The asphalt runway surface is in poor condition (cracks in surface with grass in cracks). At the departure end of runway 29, are 38-foot tall trees, 190 feet from the displaced threshold. Examination of runway 29 revealed that there is a 2-degree upgrade slope at the midfield point. This upgrade slope is not stated in the airport information.
The wreckage was located 509 feet from the departure end of runway 29. Examination of the crash site revealed that the airplane clipped trees, and impacted a powerline pole, and the airplane was entangled in power lines. The crash debris line extended 100 feet from the initial impact at the tree to the powerline pole.
Examination of the airframe and flight control system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction. Examination of the engine revealed it remained partially attached to the airframe. The propeller assembly remained attached to the propeller crankshaft flange. The propeller spinner remained attached to the propeller spinner back plate. Scratches and dents were present on the circumference of the spinner. Both propeller blades remained attached to the propeller hub. The propeller appeared undamaged except for some abrasions approximately 4 inches outboard of the spinner on one blade. The spinner was twisted and exhibited an indentation consistent with a wire strike. Examination of the engine and system components revealed no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction.
An autopsy was performed on the pilot on October 6, 2006, by Forensic Medicine Associates Incorporated as authorized by the Henry County Coroners Office, Henry, and Georgia. The autopsy findings reported cause of death was smoke inhalation.
Forensic Toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology report stated no ethanol was detected in the liver or the muscle, and no drugs were detected in the liver.
According to the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) for the Cessna 177, the published takeoff ground run to clear a 50-foot obstacle at sea level is 1,575 feet. The POH states that this is accomplished at a 2,350 lbs gross weight with 10 degrees of flaps. Review of the weight and balance of the airplane with all four occupants and 3/4 of fuel revealed that the airplane weighted approximately 2,452 pounds at the time of the takeoff. The maximum allowable takeoff weight is 2,350 pounds.