The pilot reported that during an instructional flight in the twin-engine Piper PA23 he made a successful landing to a stubble field approximately one half mile from their destination airport in Helena, Montana, following a failed mid-air engine restart.
After successfully starting the engine on the ground, the student walked back to the airport, while the pilot decided to attempt an off-airport departure from the frozen ground with 4-inch-tall alfalfa stubble.
He selected a takeoff path that didn’t contain any visible obstructions that he estimated would allow for a 3,000-foot ground roll.
He taxied to the edge of the field, held the brakes, applied full power to the engines, released the brakes, and the airplane began to move. Approximately 700 feet into the ground roll, the plane hit a shallow rut from an irrigation pivot and the nose landing gear collapsed, which resulted in substantial damage to the forward fuselage.
In a subsequent interview, the pilot commented that his decision to depart from the field was poor as he made the decision to execute the takeoff without first walking the takeoff terrain.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s improper decision to attempt an off-airport departure from rough terrain without inspecting the takeoff area, which resulted in a collision with a shallow rut during takeoff and the nose landing gear collapsing.
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This January 2020 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.