NTSB Identification: FTW96FA145.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, January 31, 1996 in ESTES PARK, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/16/1996
Aircraft: Piper PA-34-220T, registration: N83809
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot filed an IFR flight plan and made a night departure from Erie, Colorado, en route to Boise, Idaho. After receiving his IFR clearance in flight, he requested a VFR-on-top clearance and 'a vector heading for (Rock Springs, Wyoming)...just to verify...a radar vector heading just to check that...I'm having a little heading problems here, but switching to compass nav, but we're VFR on top. In fact, it's pretty much VFR below us now.' Nine minutes later, radar contact with the airplane was lost. The airplane remained missing for about a month, and the wreckage was not recovered from a mountain side for 7 months. Radar data indicated the airplane descended from an encoded altitude of 15,100 feet to 13,900 feet in 1 minute, 31 seconds, or about 800 feet per minute. No distress call was received. Wreckage examination failed to explain why the airplane descended or anything causal to accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

Descent into mountainous terrain for reasons undetermined.

Full narrative available

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