NTSB Identification: MIA02FA049.
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Accident occurred Sunday, January 13, 2002 in Micanopy, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/29/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-24-250, registration: N8263P
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.

An individual with Flightline Inc., at Gainesville Regional Airport, stated that he refueled N8263P, and at the pilot's request, he added 30 gallons of fuel. He stated that the pilot said he wanted the extra fuel as a safety precaution, but elected not to "top-off" the airplane. According to the refueler, at the time he was refueling the accident airplane, the clouds were low, and there was light rain. He further stated that he heard the two occupants of the airplane state that they had just flown from Pennsylvania, and they joked about being tired, and "dragging", after being in the airplane for such a long time. He further stated that they were concerned about leaving, and said about two or three times that they were too close to their final destination of Williston, Florida, and they did not want to stay in Gainesville, Florida. According to an official with the FAA Gainesville Flight Service Station, the flight departed early Sunday morning, and during the departure, the pilot stated that he was "departing VFR to the south." There was no further communications with the pilot of the accident airplane. Near the time of the accident, the visibility and cloud conditions reported at the Gainesville Regional Airport were visibility 10 statute miles and the sky condition was scattered clouds at 2200 feet and 3000 feet with broken clouds at 10000 feet. According to radar data obtained from the Cross City, Florida ARSR-4 radar facility, the airplane departed Gainesville Regional Airport at approximately 0035 and proceeded in the direction of Williston, Florida. Radar data shows that the flight path of the airplane consisted of numerous course changes, altitude variations between 1900 feet and 800 feet, and groundspeed variations between approximately 150 knots and 91 knots over a period of about 13 minutes from departure until radar contact was lost. Examination of the last 36 seconds of radar data shows the airplane in a right hand descending turn. During the period from 12 seconds, until the loss of radar contact, the average rate of descent and groundspeed were 2500 feet per minute and 150 knots respectively. The airplane was at an altitude of about 800 feet when radar contact was lost. The airplane struck a tree at approximately the fifty foot level, impacting the ground at about a 20 degree angle approximately 150 feet from the tree. The debris field was about 300 feet long, and oriented along a heading 312 degrees. Examination of the airplane's engine, flight controls, and airframe did not reveal any evidence of preaccident anomalies.

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

The pilot's experiencing spatial disorientation while maneuvering at a low altitude at night under visual meteorological conditions which resulted in an uncontrolled descent and an in-flight collision with a tree.

Full narrative available

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