This August 2008 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: 2 Fatal. Location: Springerville, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: Witnesses reported that after landing at the airport, the pilot and passenger borrowed a courtesy car and drove to a local grocery store. They made two trips to get groceries, which were loaded on the airplane. Among the items loaded were multiple cases of beer. The pilot then topped off the fuel tanks and taxied to the runway.
The non-towered airport is located at an elevation of 7,055 feet. Using the reported temperature and altimeter setting, the density altitude was calculated at approximately 9,476 feet. Witnesses stated that the first attempted takeoff was aborted. The pilot taxied back to the parking area and indicated that he had a flat tire. Inspection of the tires by the pilot revealed that they were not flat. The pilot taxied the airplane back to the runway for takeoff. According to witnesses, the airplane appeared to be struggling to get into the air. The airplane became airborne about midfield, then appeared to be flying sideways. The Cherokee then rolled to the right, pitched down and crashed. The airplane burst into flames. A comprehensive weight and balance for the airplane could not be determined.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to attain and maintain an adequate airspeed during takeoff in high density altitude conditions that resulted in an aerodynamic stall.
For more information: NTSB.gov