NTSB Identification: SEA96FA170.
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Accident occurred Friday, July 26, 1996 in LIBBY, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/23/1997
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-200, registration: N3071R
Injuries: 3 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 airline transport pilot, who had extensive and recent flight experience in corporate jets, received a 15-minute check-out in a single-engine light rental airplane after it was 'topped off' with fuel. The next morning, he boarded two passengers in the airplane and departed on a corporate flight. Ground witnesses observed the airplane flying between 800 and 2,000 feet above a lake and valley, and they heard the engine 'missing' and 'coughing.' The airplane continued to fly in a level attitude into an area of steeply rising terrain toward the destination airport. The airplane impacted trees at an elevation of 5,700 feet msl and burned. The wreckage path was 280 feet in length and pointed toward the airport. The accident site was surrounded by rising terrain on three sides, and the density altitude was computed to be about 6,700 feet. The landing gear was found in the extended position; no determination was made of whether the extension was due to pilot initiation, automatic extension, or initial impact forces. No distress calls from the pilot were reported, and no preimpact mechanical deficiency with the airplane or engine was found.

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

collision with rising mountainous terrain for unknown reason(s).

Full narrative available

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