These October 2009 accident reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: None. Location: Angwin, Calif. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to takeoff at night. He told investigators that he thought he had positioned the airplane for the night takeoff approximately 1/4-mile from the start of runway 34. He attempted to activate the runway lights using the radio, however the lights did not illuminate. Using his landing light, he attempted to taxi to the runway, then proceeded with the takeoff roll.
As the airplane approached 65 mph, the pilot saw grass and dirt and figured out that he was not on the runway. His passenger requested that he stop the airplane but the pilot felt that his options were better if he continued the takeoff. The passenger continued to request that he stop the airplane as the groundspeed increased to about 80 mph.
According to the pilot, the passenger was seated farther back from the panel than he was but she grabbed the yoke and was pulling on it and her feet were on the rudder pedals. The airplane hit a fence. After the accident it was determined that the pilot had not selected the correct radio frequency for light activation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to properly identify the runway surface for takeoff and his subsequent failure to abort the takeoff when he realized he was not on the runway. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to select the appropriate radio frequency to activate the runway lights.
For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification WPR10CA035