NTSB Identification: DEN01FA070.
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Accident occurred Monday, March 12, 2001 in Jackson Hole, WY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/25/2002
Aircraft: Beech A36, registration: N1080A
Injuries: 4 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 cross-country flight was receiving visual flight rules (VFR) flight following. At 1127, the controller provided the pilot with the 1115 weather observation for his destination as a few clouds at 2,100 feet agl, scattered clouds at 3,000 feet agl, broken clouds at 3,400 feet agl, and visibility of 7 statute miles. Conversion of the cloud heights to msl, using the destination elevation of 6,445 feet msl, indicated the cloud bases were between 8,545 and 9,845 feet msl. At 1129, the pilot advised the controller that he was going to descend from 12,500 to 10,500 feet msl. When the controller asked the pilot if he was familiar with the high terrain in the area and the pilot said that he was not, the controller advised the pilot of instrument flight rules minimum altitudes (MIA's) in the area of his destination, ranging from 10,000 feet to 14,000 feet msl. At 1136, radar data depicted the airplane 40 nautical miles southeast of its destination at 11,500 feet msl turning left toward the south. An 1130 satellite image showed a band of clouds near the location where the airplane turned toward the south, with cloud tops estimated to be between 12,000 to 12,500 feet msl. At 1139:36, radar data showed the flight approximately 5 nautical miles south of its 1136 position, level at 10,800 feet (2,800 feet agl). The last radar contact was at 1141:31 and showed the airplane at an altitude of 10,800 feet, approximately 48 nautical miles southeast of the destination. After radar contact was lost, the airplane reversed course and headed northwest towards the destination. The airplane impacted mountainous terrain approximately 16 miles southeast of the destination at an elevation of approximately 10,400 feet msl. Visible satellite images for 1145, 1200, and 1215 showed an area of scattered to broken clouds just west of the airplane's last radar (1141:31) position extending northward toward the destination. The clouds became broken to overcast near the accident location. It is likely that the airplane entered clouds shortly before impact. The non-instrument rated private pilot had a total of 13 hours instrument flight time. Examination of the airplane did not reveal any pre-impact anomalies that would have prevented its normal operation.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: the pilot's continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions which resulted in an inflight collision with terrain during cruise flight. Factors were the pilot's inadequate preflight planning in that he failed to familiarize himself with the terrain conditions, the mountain obscuration due to clouds, and the pilot's lack of instrument flight time.
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