This January 2010 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Minor. Location: Collegedale, Tenn. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot took off from a 4,700-foot asphalt runway at night. Although the weather was suitable for VFR flight, he reported that he lost sight of outside visual references after takeoff because of the darkness, and did not realize that the airplane was turning left.
He added that he momentarily “did not pay attention” to the airplane’s instruments, and that when he realized that the airplane was turning it was too late to correct. The airplane crashed into trees on the left side of the runway. The pilot was able to escape the airplane before it burst into flames.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain directional control during the initial climb after takeoff in dark conditions.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: ERA10CA114