NTSB Identification: DEN99LA030.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, December 30, 1998 in ROLLINSVILLE, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/02/1999
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N8112S
Injuries: 3 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot obtained a weather briefing for a cross-country flight from Boulder to Steamboat Springs which called for a SIGMET for severe turbulence due to strong winds in the vicinity of the mountains, and AIRMETS for mountain obscuration and moderate to severe turbulence. The winds aloft were forecasted to be 310 degrees at 48 knots (9,000 feet), 320 degrees at 56 knots (12,000 feet), and 310 degrees at 66 knots (18,000 feet). The pilot was going to rent a car, then later changed his mind. While en route, he encountered low visibility and obscuration due to blowing snow and mountain obscuration. He decided to turn around and descend, and was then 'caught in a powerful smooth air downdraft.' The aircraft impacted the ground and the right wing and left landing gear were sheered off. According to a witness, weather conditions at the time of the accident included 'snow, blowing snow, limited visibility, and winds gusting to approximately 40 mph... A stormy day to be sure.' At the time of the accident, the pilot had 18 years of flight experience, the majority and most recent of which was conducted in California. He was unfamiliar with the geographic location and with mountain flying.

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

The pilot's inadequate decision to continue flight into deteriorating weather conditions, that included a downdraft which resulted in a loss of control, and collision with terrain. Contributing factors were the pilot's lack of familiarity with the terrain, high winds, obscuration and mountainous terrain.

Full narrative available

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