NTSB Identification: FTW02FA222.
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Accident occurred Thursday, August 01, 2002 in Gypsum, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/30/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N6444J
Injuries: 2 Fatal,2 Serious.

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.

Approximately 19 nm northwest of the departure airport (elevation 6,535 feet), the airplane impacted the rising mountainous terrain at an elevation of 10,050 feet. Prior to departure, the pilot calculated the airplane's gross weight to be approximately 2,270 pounds (maximum gross weight 2,400). After a takeoff roll of approximately 5,000 feet, the airplane departed the runway, and the pilot executed a right turn toward the rising terrain. Approximately 5 minutes into the flight, the right front seat passenger commented to the pilot that "we're going kinda low." The pilot stated that after climbing about 10 to 15 minutes up a valley, he noticed that the vertical climb rate had decreased to about 100-200 feet per minute, which was half the climb rate that he expected at full throttle power. During the impact with the terrain, the fuel tanks ruptured and the airplane was destroyed by a post-impact fire. The engine was test run according to the manufacturer specifications. No discrepancies or anomalies were noted during the engine test run that would indicate the engine was not capable of operating and producing power prior to the accident. No anomalies or discrepancies were noted with the airframe. The density altitude at the accident site was calculated to be approximately 12,000 feet.

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

The pilot's failure to perform remedial action and maintain clearance with the rising mountainous terrain. Contributing factors were the pilot's poor planning/decision, the rising terrain, and the high density altitude.

Full narrative available

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