NTSB Identification: NYC99FA160.
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Accident occurred Saturday, June 26, 1999 in DAWSON, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/23/2000
Aircraft: Piper J3C-65, registration: N29832
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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.

Three Piper J3s, departed an airport in a valley with higher terrain nearby, and a density altitude of about 3,000 feet. Each airplane turned toward rising terrain, consisting of lower finger ridges and canyons, and a higher main ridge. The first airplane carrying only a pilot climbed faster than the terrain, and turned downwind. The second and third airplanes each carrying a pilot and passenger, tried to follow similar paths. The second airplane was at gross weight, and the pilot reported he encountered descending air which drove him down into the trees. The pilot reported no engine or airplane problems. The airplane was equipped with a cruise propeller which increased cruise speed and decreased the airplane's rate of climb. The pilots had been briefed on alternate departure routes that would not have required an immediate climb over rising terrain, but they were not used. FAA publications advised of the need to download weight when operating with higher density altitudes, and to approach ridgelines at a 45 degree angle to allow for escape in case of turbulence or descending air.

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

was the pilot's improper decision to turn toward rising terrain with inadequate terrain clearance. Factors were the density altitude, and unfavorable winds.

Full narrative available

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