Stearman compromised by density altitude

Aircraft: Boeing PT-17. Injuries: 2 Serious. Location: Fabens, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: During the takeoff roll, the pilot noticed the engine was developing 100 to 200 rpm less than expected.

He continued with the takeoff. During the climb, he was unable to maintain a safe airspeed.

When the plane was about 100 feet above the ground, he attempted a left turn back to the airport. The airplane stalled. The pilot was able to level the wings before the plane hit the ground.

The engine was not examined due to impact damage and the inability of inspectors to remove the engine at the accident site.

At the time of the accident, the density altitude was about 6,425 feet, which would have contributed to reduced airplane performance during takeoff.

Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to continue the high density altitude takeoff with reduced engine power and his decision to initiate a turn back to the runway with insufficient airspeed, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.

NTSB Identification: CEN11LA578

This August 2011 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.


  1. David Grant says

    I’m kind of surprised to see all these accidents are in the 5k to 6k range so far. I’ve seen density altitudes in training and real life at 9k+ and while that’s intense, with a little homework, a takeoff can still be accomplished. So clearly, more homework is needed.

  2. Vaughn S. Price says

    Why do people with pilot licenses have no concept of just staying in ground effect until they are better positioned to start a climb. ? answer, Their first Instructor did not teach them.
    If a Student has not learned, it means the Instructor has not taught

  3. Mooney 9242V says

    Lets see, a little bit of additional training or a medical certificate. Where do you think the value is?

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