NTSB Identification: LAX01FA274.
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Accident occurred Sunday, August 12, 2001 in Boulder City, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/30/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N8098W
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 airplane collided with power lines and poles 1.1 miles east of the airport's runway 27 approach end while on a night visual landing approach. The accident site is in level desert terrain approximately the same elevation as the airport. Impact marks and transfers disclosed that the aircraft contacted a steel and concrete power pole and associated static and transmission lines with the left wing, center windshield post, and vertical stabilizer. Investigation revealed that the pilot and passenger had consumed alcoholic beverages during dinner together at a local restaurant the night of the accident. Following dinner, the pair were observed to consume other alcoholic beverages at a party. The airplane then departed from the airport, where the airplane is based, at an unknown time for a presumed local flight. An airborne witness was piloting an emergency medical services helicopter (based at the airport), which was returning from a mission and inbound to the airport from the south. He observed the position lights of the accident airplane approach the airport from the west through a pass, which crosses the mountains between the valley where the airport is located and the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area. The position lights were roughly at the same elevation as his helicopter, 4,000 feet msl. He attempted to contact the airplane on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency, but got no response. As he continued inbound to the airport, he monitored the position of the airplane and saw it on a wide arcing flight path to the south of the airport. As he was beginning a final descent to land at their parking spot, the airplane's pilot came on the CTAF and announced that he was going to make a "teardrop approach" to runway 27 left. The witness said the pilot's voice had an unusual and strange quality and that the comment about a teardrop approach confused him momentarily because he knew that there was no such instrument approach to the airport. He then observed the airplane continue the wide arcing and descending left-hand flight path to runway 27. The witness had landed and was shutting the helicopter down when he looked up and observed the navigation lights of the airplane on final approach. He thought to himself that the airplane was very low, then he saw the bright flash of arcing electricity as the airplane contacted the power lines. The power lines contacted by the airplane are the most eastern of four sets of high tension power lines running perpendicular to the approach end of the runway. The pole and lines contacted by the airplane were 66 feet above ground level and on the extended runway centerline. The most western set of the three power line sets were marked by red obstruction lights. The sky was clear and the winds calm, with no moon visible. The airport's runway and approach lights were functioning. The airport is located on the south side of the city and, for an airplane on final approach, the airport lights would be the only ground reference lights visible. No pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures were identified with the airplane or engine. Ethanol was found in the following levels in specimens from the pilot: 124 mg/dl in blood, 74 mg/dl in brain, and 214 mg/dl in urine.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: the pilot's failure to maintain an adequate terrain and obstruction clearance altitude while maneuvering in a non-standard visual approach to land. The pilot's misjudgment of his altitude and distance from the airport was due to impairment by alcohol. Factors in the accident were the dark nighttime lighting conditions and the visual perception difficulty created by a lack of ground reference lights. Full narrative available
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