NTSB Identification: LAX97FA070.
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Sunday, December 22, 1996 in LUCERNE VALLEY, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-23-250, registration: N2377T
Injuries: 4 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 advised she was experiencing moderate to severe turbulence and was unable to maintain altitude. She requested the nearest airport and was given a heading and distance to Apple Valley. After she reported that her door popped open, radio and radar contact were lost. A witness reported that the aircraft was in level flight and then abruptly rolled to the right, pitched forward, and continued in a nose down attitude until it exploded into a towering, red fireball. The POH states that should the door open in flight, the pilot should slow the airspeed to reduce buffeting and then land at the nearest airport. It also states that should rough air be encountered, the pilot should slow the aircraft to maneuvering speed or slightly less, fly attitude, and avoid abrupt maneuvers. Weather forecasts were for moderate to severe turbulence, strong winds, scattered to broken clouds, and rain and icing conditions.

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

the pilot's failure to maintain an adequate airspeed after encountering turbulence, low level wind shear, and an open door.

Full narrative available

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