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 days before the accident flight, the commercial pilot told his mechanic and flight instructor that the airplane had not been climbing well. The pilot had completed an engine run-up and subsequent test flight, and found no anomalies with the airplane. The accident flight was the second leg of a cross-country trip that originated earlier in the morning. During the accident takeoff, the pilot stated to air traffic control that the airplane was having trouble climbing. The airplane subsequently collided with terrain about 2 miles from the runway.
Postaccident testing of the fuel manifold showed that it was not operating normally and was contaminated with debris. The composition of debris and its origin could not be determined, but it was likely that the debris moved within the fuel manifold during operation and resulted in fluctuating power indications. Examination of the engine did not reveal any mechanical anomalies. Although the airplane was likely loaded 24 pounds in excess of its maximum gross weight, takeoff distance calculations showed that sufficient runway was available when loaded at the maximum gross weight for the departure and climb, assuming nominal performance of the airplane, engine, and pilot. Given that the airplane was having difficulty climbing, as communicated by the pilot to air traffic control during the departure, it is likely that during the takeoff, the debris in the fuel manifold prevented the engine from obtaining full power.