NTSB Identification: MIA01FA060.
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Accident occurred Sunday, January 14, 2001 in BETHEL, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/10/2002
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-180, registration: N3996T
Injuries: 2 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 proceeded VFR, without a flight plan, until a location about 40 miles southwest of the destination airport. Due to weather at the destination, the pilot filed and was given an IFR clearance. He was cleared to descend to 3,000 feet, proceed to the initial approach fix for the ILS runway 20 approach, and subsequently cleared for the approach, via the published procedure turn. The minimum altitude for the procedure turn was 1,600 feet. According to the controller's statement, he requested an altitude report from the pilot, and had to advise him his "assigned altitude was 3,000…..he was at various altitudes from 2,000 to 2,700." The last radar plot at 1823:47, showed the flight was at 2,100 feet, still in the procedure turn, when radar and radio communications were lost. The airplane struck wires about 35 feet above the ground, about 11.5 miles north of the airport. The pilot had accumulated a total of 4,015 total flight hours, all in single engine aircraft, and 137 hours in this make and model aircraft. In addition, the logbooks showed that he had 324 total night flight hours, 135 simulated instrument flight hours, and 105 actual instrument flight hours. The pilot had logged a total of 10.6 instrument flight hours for the entire years of 1999 and 2000. July 12, 2000, was the last entry that showed .4 of an hour instrument flight time. Examination of the engine, propeller, and the vacuum pump revealed no discrepancies. The accident occurred during the hours of darkness, and the reported weather at about the time of the accident was; 300 overcast, visibility 1 sm light rain, winds calm, temperature 55 degrees F, dew point 54 degrees F, and the altimeter was 30.19 inches Hg. Toxicological tests revealed that Chlorpheniramine was found in the urine and blood at levels consistent with a normal single dose of the medication within approximately the previous 24 hours. Chlorpheniramine use can result in drowsiness, and has measurable effects on performance of complex cognitive and motor tasks (e.g. flying an aircraft). It may also interfere with the normal function of the inner ear, potentially increasing susceptibility to spatial disorientation.

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

the pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation, which resulted in an in-flight collision with power lines and the subsequent impact with terrain. A factor in this accident was: the pilot's lack of recent instrument flight experience.

Full narrative available

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