The general theme repeated by the pilots as told to

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repeated by the pilots as told to them by the owner is, “never be unsafe, but try and be creative before aborting a flight.” Interviews with the maintenance personnel said that about 10 days prior to the mishap, the accident pilot "thought" there was a possible power loss and noted a few minor fuel droplets below the right engine on a preflight, but ground tests conducted by another line pilot could not duplicate the problem. The owner stated he was aware of the rough running engine and a few drops of fuel, but it was "just the nature of this aircraft.” There was one maintenance entry approximately 15 hours before the mishap that indicated work was done on the right engine to correct a small “seep” of the fuel line gasket and readjust the turbo waste gates. On the morning of the mishap, the pilot called Zonk Air stating there were, again, small fuel drips coming from the right engine. The manager/owner stated it was probably an old vent/fuel cap leaking a bit, which was normal for this old aircraft after top-off. Although, the vent/fuel cap was burned at the crash site and pre-accident quality was not determined. The mechanic that usually serviced the company aircraft was no longer employed and had moved. However, his A&P was valid. The maintenance company, “Wrench and Fix” that serviced the PA-31 did not have experience working on PA-31 aircraft, but did service a few light twins that came to Oxnard, CA.The maintenance operation had no Page 5 of 6 major FAA violations, except for some minor “record management issues.” The company indicated they worked on the mishap aircraft Aircraft Accident Report Project1.7 Company information and operationsAccident Case Number ERAU-330RL
ZONK AIR ACCIDENT 10but noted no squawks listed from the company. However, it was not unusual for Zonk Air to request that a mechanic come over and take a “quick gander” at something before they wrote up the squawks as was the case with the leaky fuel drops on the right engine.1.8 Witness Interviews and Company InterviewsWIT-1: Air Traffic Controller at TVL tower confirmed ATIS information to the mishap aircraft and provided taxi and take-off instructions. The ATC personnel advised the pilot that it was marginal VFR and asked if he was requesting an IFR clearance? Pilot stated no, he would pick up an IFR clearance enroute, if needed. The tower operator again commented the weather seemed to be really going down to the south and the mountain peaks were beginning to get obscured. “The pilot, replied, that he had better “scoot it on out of here.”” The airport went officially IFR a short time after the mishap. The controller gave taxi clearance, watched the planetaxi directly to the hold short line, then request take-off. He did not observe any run-up prior to take-off. After take-off, he observed the plane use about ¾ length of the runway, rotate, then suddenly, to what he perceived, continue and enter an abrupt and very high angle of pitch. The controller then lost sight of the aircraft as it disappeared in the mist past the end of the runway.

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