NTSB Identification: BFO89FA012.
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 39102.
Accident occurred Wednesday, November 23, 1988 in MEADOWS OF DAN, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/09/1990
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32-300, registration: N4194W
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 NON-INSTRUMENT RATED PLT TOLD WITNESSES THAT HE WOULD ATTEMPT TO CROSS MOUNTAINS NORTH OF THE DEPARTURE AIRPORT WHERE HE EXPECTED TO FIND CLEAR WEATHER BEFORE HE PROCEEDED WEST TOWARD HIS DESTINATION. A WITNESS SAID THE WEATHER AT THE DEPARTURE AIRPORT WAS ABOUT 1200 OVERCAST WITH GOOD VISIBILITY BELOW THE OVERCAST. THE PLT HAD FLOWN ABOUT 35 MILES AND WAS OVER THE BLUE RIDGE MTS, WHEN ACCORDING TO RECORDED RADAR DATA, THE ACFT BEGAN TO CHANGE COURSE ABOUT 14 TIMES, INCLUDING SEVERAL COURSE REVERSALS, DURING ABO UT A 15 MINUTE PERIOD. DURING THIS TIME THE ACFT CLIMBED FROM 2100 TO 7200 FT. A WITNESS NEAR THE ACCIDENT SITE SAID IT WAS RAINING, VISIBILITY 1000 FT, AND THE MOUNTAIN TOPS WERE OBSCURED BY CLOUDS WHEN HE HEARD THE ACFT AT FULL POWER AND CLIMBING SHORTLY BEFORE HE HEARD A 'MUFFLED' SOUND FOLLOWED BY SILENCE. THE ACFT EXPERIENCED AN INFLIGHT BREAKUP CONSISTING OF SEPARATED PORTIONS OF THE RIGHT WING AND RIGHT HORIZONTAL STABILIZER. EXAMINATION OF THE WRECKAGE DID NOT REVEAL EVIDENCE OF MECHANICAL MALFUNCTION.

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

THE PILOT CONDUCTED VFR FLIGHT INTO IMC BECAUSE OF INADEQUATE INFLIGHT PLANNING/DECISION. THE AIRCRAFT EXPERIENCED INFLIGHT BRAKUP WHEN THE PILOT WAS UNABLE TO MAINTAIN FLIGHT WITHIN THE DESIGN STRESS LIMITS OF THE AIRCRAFT.

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