NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane make a mid-field intersection takeoff. One witness observed the airplane on takeoff roll about 1,000 feet down the runway then heard what he thought was a noticeable skip in engine power; however, the engine seemed to regain full power almost instantly. The airplane rotated about 1,500 feet down the runway and begin to climb, which appeared to be normal. The airplane then flew out of the witnesses' sight and 2 to 3 minutes later, they saw black smoke just south of the runway. A witness who was driving along a road just south of and perpendicular to the departure end of the runway, saw the airplane rocking back and forth over power lines and thought that the propeller was not turning. Another witness saw the airplane flying erratically just before it nosed into the ground and erupted into flames. The combined witness observations were consistent with a loss of engine power after takeoff, and the wreckage distribution was consistent with a nose-low impact. The accident site was located in small field with sparse vegetation, surrounded by groves of trees. The terrain just beyond the departure end of the runway would not have been reasonably conducive to a forced landing after a sudden loss of engine power after takeoff. Although there was a rural road just beyond the departure end of the runway, the road would also not be conducive to a forced landing due to power lines along its edges.
The last time the pilot refueled the airplane is unknown. However, in addition to the postimpact fire, the accident site showed evidence of vegetation blight, which is consistent with fuel spray at the time of impact, both of which indicate the presence of some fuel on board. The single source of fuel for the airport was tested for contamination, and no anomalies were noted. The weather conditions at the time of the accident were not conducive to carburetor icing for the phase of flight (takeoff power). Neither the autopsy nor toxicology results for the pilot indicated any preexisting conditions that could have contributed to impairment or incapacitation at the time of the accident.
Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of specific preimpact mechanical malfunction or failures that would have precluded normal operation; however, the postimpact fire damage precluded a thorough examination of the engine to determine the reason for the power loss.