Short-field takeoff goes awry

This July 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: Cessna 172. Injuries: None. Location: Waynesboro, Va. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot stated that prior to departure he calculated the weight, balance, and density altitude for the departure airport. Using the reported temperature of 40° C, he determined the takeoff roll would be 1,500 feet by referencing the airplane’s Pilot Operating Handbook. The departure runway was annotated in the airport directory as being 2,009 feet long and in poor condition. The pilot planned to use the grass overrun area of the runway to extend the takeoff roll by about 400 feet.

He completed an engine run-up and extended the flaps to 10° for a short-field takeoff and taxied into position for takeoff. With the brakes set, he increased the throttle to full power and leaned the mixture in an effort to gain better performance. When the tachometer indicated 2,400 rpm, he released the brakes and started the takeoff roll. Initial acceleration was slow, but once the airplane reached the paved runway it accelerated normally. The airplane lifted off the runway and remained in ground effect. The pilot turned to the left to avoid trees, flew under power lines, and made a forced landing to a field, where the plane hit a fence.

According to the POH, “..normal and short field takeoffs are performed with flaps up. Use of 10° flaps is reserved for takeoff from soft or rough fields. Use of 10° flaps allows safe use of approximately 5 KIAS lower takeoff speeds than with flaps up. The lower speeds result in shortening takeoff distances up to approximately 10%. However, this advantage is lost if flaps up speeds are used, or in high altitude takeoffs at maximum weight where climb performance would be marginal with 10° flaps. Therefore, use of 10° flaps is not recommended for takeoff over an obstacle at high altitude in hot weather…”

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to follow the short-field takeoff procedures published in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook.

For more information: NTSB Identification: ERA10LA377


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