Night takeoff mistake causes a passenger to abort the takeoff

General Aviation News often reprints accident reports from the USA’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), including one from October 2009 that involved a Piper Cherokee in Angwin, California which led to substantial aircraft damage but no injuries.

According to the accident report, the pilot of a Piper Cherokee was attempting a night takeoff after he thought he had positioned the aircraft for a takeoff 1/4th mile from the start of the runway. He then attempted to use his radio to activate the runway lights – which did not activate. Hence, the pilot used his landing light to taxi and then attempt a takeoff.

However and when the aircraft reached 65 mph, the pilot figured out that he was not on the runway as he saw dirt and grass. At this point in time, his passenger requested the takeoff to be aborted while the pilot felt he could continue the takeoff. 

When the groundspeed reached 80 mph, the passenger decided to abort the takeoff by grabbing the yoke while having her feet on the rudder pedals. The aircraft ended up hitting a fence. 

The accident investigation revealed that the pilot had not selected the right radio frequency in order to activate the runway lights. Moreover, it was ruled that the pilot (rather than his passenger….) should have aborted the takeoff when he realized that he was not on the actual runway.

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