NTSB Identification: MIA03FA016.
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Accident occurred Friday, November 15, 2002 in Climax, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/28/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140, registration: N8162N
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 flight departed about 1653, or approximately 46 minutes before the calculated end of civil twilight, and the accident occurred approximately 1759, or 20 minutes after the end of civil twilight. One witness reported seeing lights from the airplane descend below trees, then the lights from the airplane were observed to come up and then went down sharply. Another witness noted the airplane was flying alongside a highway nearby the airport at a low altitude, then observed the airplane collide with the tops of trees. The airplane then descended nose first and came to rest upright in a wooded area in a right wing and nose low attitude with the empennage elevated. A damaged tree located north of where the airplane came to rest was noted. The impact damaged right wing remained secured by the aileron flight control cables, while the bolt securing the aft wing and fuselage fittings of the left wing was not recovered. NTSB Metallurgical examination of the holes in the fittings of the left wing revealed elongation consistent with contact by the bolt shank. No evidence or preimpact failure or malfunction was noted with the flight controls for roll, pitch, and yaw. The auxiliary fuel pump and landing light operationally tested satisfactory post accident. Examination of the engine revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. Tree trunks measuring various diameters were noted to have 45-degree cuts. The airport was determined to have a homemade visual approach slope indicator (VASI) installed, that was utilized by a pilot who flew a twin engine airplane into the airport; the airport facility directory did not depict the homemade VASI. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed his last logged night flight occurred on October 22, 2002, or about 24 days earlier.

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

The pilot's operation of the airplane at a low altitude during final approach that resulted in an in-flight collision with a tree, a witness reported pitch-up, and subsequent stall and in-flight collision with terrain.

Full narrative available

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