NTSB Identification: MIA97FA031.
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Accident occurred Thursday, December 05, 1996 in REFORM, AL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA32-300D, registration: N8603N
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 flight had been airborne 12 minutes when the airplane had a total engine failure. The pilot was given vectors to an airport and was advised that the airport did not have lighting available. About 1 mile from the airport the pilot could not find the airport in the dark and said, 'I'm going for the dark spot....' Radio and radar contact was lost, and there was not further communications with the pilot. The pilot of another airplane on the frequency was vectored to the airport, circled over the airport about 10 to 15 minutes after the last transmission from N8603N, and he attempted to activate the runway lights. The pilot of the other airplane said that after four to five unsuccessful attempts he saw a vehicle arrive at the airport and the lights went 'on.' A witness had observed the airplane at a low altitude west of the airport, and said; '...it was like it was gliding... no sound...and was descending lower and lower...I didn't see anything, I didn't hear the sound of an airplane. The engine or anything....' The engine, the fuel injection system, the fuel found in the airplane, were all examined, and no discrepancies were found. Both magnetos were tested on a test stand, and the tests revealed that both the coils from each magneto were found cracked and leaking. The aircraft's logbooks showed that the last entry and the last annual were performed on 8/1/88. Since 1988, the airplane had flown a total of 30 hours. No ferry permit was issued for this flight, and no maintenance was performed before the flight.

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

a complete loss of engine power due to a total failure of both magnetos, and the failure of the pilot-in-command to insure that the airplane was airworthy. The dark night and unsuitable terrain were factors.

Full narrative available

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