The pilot reported that the engine run-up and the initial takeoff were normal and that the Piper PA-28 rotated at 50 mph and lifted off at 60 mph from the airport in Lafayette, Ind.
The airplane then accelerated to its best angle of climb speed and cleared the front edge of a band of trees that bordered the end of the runway, after which it descended into the trees and subsequently hit terrain.
The pilot reported that he did not know exactly what happened, but stated that it appeared the airplane got into a downdraft or experienced an engine power loss.
He further surmised that the airplane “lost lift,” which resulted in the impact with trees.
An examination of the airplane after the accident showed no pre-impact anomalies, however, an examination of the engine was not accomplished due to the position of the airplane at the accident scene.
Weather conditions at the time of the accident included a gusting wind. The FAA’s Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge states that obstructions on the ground affect the wind flow and can be an unseen danger that can break up the wind flow and create wind gusts that change rapidly in direction and speed. It further cautions that it is especially important to be vigilant when flying in or out of airports that have large buildings or natural obstructions near the runway.
Based on the available evidence, the pilot likely failed to maintain adequate airspeed in the climb, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall.
It is also likely that the airplane encountered a local disturbance due to the wind and trees that exacerbated the event; however, the pilot should have anticipated this possibility and taken appropriate measures to avoid the stall.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed in gusting wind conditions during the initial climb after takeoff, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall.
NTSB Identification: CEN13LA455
This July 2013 accident report is are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.