NTSB Identification: ATL04LA126.
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Accident occurred Sunday, June 13, 2004 in Baxley, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA 32R-301, registration: N8451E
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

While flying at 2300 feet, the pilot shut off the autopilot and immediately could not maintain pitch control and the airplane went into a series of uncontrollable gyrations. The pilot attempted to regain control of the airplane but was unsuccessful. The airplane collided with trees five miles west of Baxley Municipal Airport. During the post accident functional examination of the autopilot assembly disclosed that when the unit was engaged the pitch servo would only correct the pitch attitude in one direction. Internal examination of the pitch servo revealed that three transistors had been replaced and one transistor appeared original to the unit. Additionally, the functional check of the pitch trim servo solenoid revealed that the unit was not within the design specifications. According to the pilot operating handbook, if the autopilot is disengaged when opposing mistrim forces are encountered, the pilot may be required to exert control forces in excess of 50 pounds to maintain airplane attitude. The pilot will have to maintain this control force while he manually retrim the airplane.

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

The mechanical malfunction of the autopilot pitch servo, and the pilot's inability to maintain adequate control pressure to manually retrim the pitch attitude.

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