On April 12, 2008, about 1900 Alaska daylight time, a Piper J5A airplane, N38149, sustained substantial damage during an emergency landing after takeoff, at the Big Lake Airport, Big Lake, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal local flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The solo commercial certificated pilot received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on April 12, the pilot said the airplane lifted off the runway, climbed about 50 feet, and the engine quit. He said the airplane descended into trees at the end of the runway, sustaining structural damage to both wings, the tail, and fuselage during the accident. The pilot, who is a certificated aircraft mechanic, said the airplane had not flown in about a year, and that he had spent the day getting the airplane ready for a flight to Fairbanks, Alaska. He noted the accident flight was a test flight, that the airplane had fuel, and seemed to run fine on the ground.

In a written statement dated April 20, the pilot explained that he had moved the airplane around, raised the tail, and drained about 1-2 gallons of clear fuel from the airplane prior to starting the engine. He said he had also preheated the engine for several hours prior to the accident flight. A detailed examination of the engine was not done, and the pilot said he was unsure why the engine lost power.

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