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.