NTSB Identification: CHI01FA100.
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Accident occurred Friday, March 09, 2001 in ERHARD, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/21/2002
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N55893
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 owner of the airplane said that he and the pilot had flown to Detroit Lakes (DTL), Minnesota, in the airplane so that the owner could pick up another airplane and ferry it back to Fergus Falls (FFM), Minnesota. The owner said the flight to DTL was uneventful. At DTL, they checked the weather for the return flight. The automatic weather observing/reporting system (AWOS) at FFM was reporting a ceiling of 800 feet overcast and 7 miles visibility. The owner took off in a Piper Seneca before the pilot took off. The owner said that he heard the pilot over his airplane radio departing DTL. En route to FFM, the pilot contacted the owner and inquired if the owner got up okay. The owner responded that everything was working. The pilot then said, "You must be close to Fergus [Falls]". The owner said that he was 11 miles from FFM at that time. The owner said he landed right at 2000. While taxiing to the ramp, the owner said he tried to call the pilot on the airplane's radio. There was no response. The owner parked his airplane and went into the fixed base operator (FBO) to contact the pilot on the FBO radio. Again, there was no response. A witness on a farm located near the accident site said that he first heard the airplane. "We couldn't see it. It was in the clouds or fog." The witness said the ground visibility was good. "The airplane appeared out of the fog approximately up 150 ft. spiraling sharp to the right, and going down fast. It only took a few seconds for it to hit the ground." The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating. At 2017, the AWOS at FFM, 15 miles south of the accident site, reported sky conditions 600 overcast, 7 miles visibility, temperature 21 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 14 degrees F, winds 150 degrees at 12 knots, and altimeter 29.91 inches of mercury. An examination of the airplane systems revealed no anomalies.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control. Factors relating to the accident were the pilot's encounter with known adverse weather conditions, the low ceiling, the pilot disregarding the weather observation information obtained prior to the flight, and the pilot's lack of instrument experience.

Full narrative available

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