NTSB Identification: IAD01FA053.
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Accident occurred Monday, April 30, 2001 in Afton, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/25/2002
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R-180, registration: N7680J
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 pilot planned a direct flight from Leesburg, Virginia, to Pittsfield, Pennsylvania, which would have required a course of 344 degrees magnetic. Examination of radar data revealed the airplane initiated the flight on an approximate ground track of 340 degrees, and continued on that track for about 15 minutes. During the next hour, the airplane performed three consecutive left-hand orbits and then rolled out on a ground track of 240 degrees. The airplane flew for about an hour on that track, and the last radar identification was about 5 miles from the accident site. Examination of the airplane and engine revealed no mechanical deficiencies. According to a friend of the pilot's, the pilot had a history of "passing out," with no particular reason or trigger identified. She stated that the pilot had passed out three times in the 2 weeks prior to the accident, and once the day before the accident. The pilot's doctor reported that the pilot had undergone extensive testing to determine a cause for his recurring loss of consciousness. During the testing process, the pilot was instructed not to fly his airplane, until a cause could be identified for the episodes. Four months prior to the accident, the pilot was diagnosed with "vascular syncope," a nervous system reaction in which the heart rate and blood pressure drop for no reason. On his last FAA medical application, dated three months prior to the accident, the pilot stated he had never experienced dizziness or fainting spells, unconsciousness, or high blood pressure. A review of every FAA medical application on file for the pilot revealed he never reported any health problems.

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

The pilot's loss of consciousness due to a medical condition, which resulted in his failure to maintain control of the airplane and subsequent impact with rising terrain.

Full narrative available

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