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Sun, Apr 10, 2011

Low Viz Claims Piper and Pilot

Flight Into Poor Viz Creates Tragedy... Again

Heavy fog and mist is nothing to mess with when trying to get from Point A to Point B. A Turbo Arrow was downed last week when it continued flight into deteriorating visibility, described by witnesses as "a mile or less." With clouds "touching the ridgelines' the scenario was one that has hurt or killed a number of pilots who continued flight when common sense dictated that it was time to get out of dodge... what a shame.

NTSB Identification: WPR11FA182
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, April 03, 2011 in Cherry Valley, CA
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28RT, registration: N355LC
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On April 3, 2011, about 0715 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28RT-201, N355LC, collided with terrain near Cherry Valley, California. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage to the entire airframe from impact forces and a post crash fire. The cross-country personal flight departed Banning, California, at an undetermined time with a planned destination of Redlands, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the nearest official weather reporting station, and no flight plan had been filed.

Witnesses near the accident site reported hearing the airplane at low level, but could not see it because of low clouds. They reported that the visibility was 1 mile or less in fog or heavy mist, and that the clouds were touching the tops of the ridgelines. They stated that the engine sounded like it was operating normally, and the sounds stayed the same until they abruptly stopped. A witness less than 1 mile away heard a heavy impact and the engine sounds stop, but did not see the fireball as the mountains blocked her view. A witness about 4 miles away, did not hear the impact, but observed a fireball when the engine sounds stopped.

Investigators examined the accident site, which was in the foothills of mountainous terrain. The debris field was on a north-south ridge as it rose toward an east-west primary ridgeline with a road on top of it. The main debris field went downhill on the west slope of the ridge. A portion of the right wing with part of the aileron attached, the remainder of the right aileron, and the aileron balance weight were on top of the ridge crest, which was left of the debris path centerline.

The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a ground scar that was a few inches wide at the beginning. About 3 feet forward of the FIPC in the direction of the debris field were green lens fragments. The initial ground scar expanded to about 1-foot for about 20 feet; it ended at the edge of the principal impact crater (PIC). The PIC was about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. One propeller blade separated, and was in the center of the PIC. The blade bent aft at the fracture point; the fracture surface was angular and jagged with a shear lip. The debris path continued slightly downslope, and the main wreckage came to rest about 180 feet from the FIPC. Both flaps separated and were midway into the debris field.

The main wreckage consisted of the engine, fuselage, left wing, and empennage. The cabin was severely damaged and twisted; it fragmented and was partially consumed by fire.

The engine separated from the airframe, but was in its relative position in front of the cabin. It came to rest in an upright position.

All control surfaces were identified at the accident site.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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