The pilot and a pilot-rated passenger were conducting a personal flight near West Yellowstone, Mont., in the tailwheel-equipped Bellanca 7GCBC. The pilot was in the rear seat, and the passenger was in the front seat.
The passenger did not have a tailwheel endorsement, but he planned to follow the pilot on the controls during the takeoff to familiarize himself with the procedure.
During the takeoff roll when the airplane was approaching liftoff speed, it made a rapid veer off to the left. At that point, the pilot abandoned the takeoff, and made the conscious decision not to attempt to return to the runway, instead allowing the plane to roll and decelerate on the grass and gravel beside the runway. That decision was based on the desire to avoid any potentially hazardous maneuvering or a ground loop.
During the rollout, due to the pilot’s inability to see directly ahead, the plane hit the visual approach slope indicator (VASI) located about 1,300 feet down the runway, and offset about 145 feet from the runway centerline. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing struts, but the pilot and passenger were not injured.
The pilot stated that he did not believe that any mechanical malfunction or failure contributed to or caused the runway excursion, and that he could not rule out the possibility that he had inadvertently applied one wheel brake during the takeoff roll.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to maintain directional control during the takeoff roll, which resulted in a runway excursion and a collision with an approach slope indicator system component.
NTSB Identification: WPR13CA362
This August 2013 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.