Misconfigured Piper Arrow has a fatal crash taking off from a short grassy runway

General Aviation News recently posted an excerpt from a June 2009 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about a fatal crash involving a misconfigured Piper Arrow in Scotia New York that resulted in three fatalities. 

According to the accident report, a flight instructor and student pilot with a passenger in the backseat were attempting to take off from a 1,840 foot long grass runway that was also next to a river. However:

The manufacturer’s performance charts based on the weather conditions at the accident site revealed the ground run required for takeoff on a hard surface, without flaps extended, is about 1,350 feet. Takeoff from a grassy surface would require a significantly longer distance.

Moreover, instructor and the student pilot did not extend the Piper’s flaps to 25° which the Owner’s Handbook says is a requirement for takeoff from any soft surface runway.

According to eyewitness accounts, the Piper became airborne twice on the takeoff roll but ended up in the river where it sank – causing all three onboard to drown. The ensuing investigation revealed no evidence of any type of mechanical failure or a malfunction of any kind.

Hence, it was ruled that the probable cause of the fatal crash was the flight instructor’s failure to properly configure the aircraft for a short-field takeoff from a grassy runway plus his decision to not abort the takeoff.

In other words and should you be taking off from a runway such as a grassy field, be sure to read your Owner’s Handbook first to ensure that you have your aircraft properly configured.

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2 Responses to Misconfigured Piper Arrow has a fatal crash taking off from a short grassy runway

  1. Jamie Beckett June 18, 2011 at 18:43 #

    I couldn't agree more, Matthew. The shorter the field, the softer the surface, the more challenging the geography, the more important it is that you dispense of the macho, "I can do this," attitude and pull out the book. A very talented collection of engineers and test pilots has already done the testing required to keep you out of the trees, and out of the river. If you choose to ignore their research and the resulting procedures (which are included in the Pilot's Operating Handbook) you will be taking on the role of test pilot yourself. Considering the dangers inherent in that course of action, I will continue to avoid the impulse to rush the takeoff. It's just safer to do the planning that keeps us safe.


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