NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
During preflight inspection of the airplane, the pilot discovered three baby birds in the cockpit. After removing the birds, he continued his preflight inspection, looking for a nest. He noticed that the rag normally used to cover one of the elevator openings was missing, but he did not find a nest inside. Immediately after takeoff, about 100 ft above ground level, a fire started within the engine compartment, and smoke began to enter the cockpit. The pilot turned the airplane back toward the runway, but lost control as the airplane touched down because his visibility was limited by the smoke. The occupants egressed the airplane, which was subsequently consumed by fire. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed remnants of a bird nest between the exhaust manifold and the engine firewall, which was the likely origin of the fire.