NTSB Identification: CHI04LA173.
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Accident occurred Thursday, July 08, 2004 in Waubun, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/08/2005
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-161, registration: N248ND
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.

The airplane was destroyed when it impacted terrain during cruise flight at 0135 central daylight time. The private pilot was working on his commercial and instrument flight ratings. The flight was a night cross-country flight which required landings at three different airports with one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles between airports. The pilot reported that on July 6th he woke up at 0800 and that he went to bed at 0200 on July 7th. On July 7th, he slept until 0730-0800. The pilot reported that he departed Grand Forks (GFK), North Dakota, at 1815. He flew to Airlake Airport (LVN), Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the first leg of his cross-country flight and arrived there at 2030. He departed LVN and continued on the second leg of the flight plan. He arrived at Crystal Airport (MIC) at 2130. He had the airplane fueled with 24 gallons of fuel. He met with a friend and they went to eat at a restaurant where he had a meal. He returned to the airport and departed at 2355. He reported that he climbed to 4,500 feet mean sea level (msl) and contacted flight service about 0030 to open his flight plan back to GFK. The pilot flew for about 1.5 hours on a northwesterly heading. The pilot reported that he remembered seeing Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, in the distance, but did not remember anything else about the flight. He reported that the next thing he remembered was when he opened his eyes and realized that he was in a corn field and that the airplane had crashed. He was unable to move, but he yelled for help when rescue personnel arrived at the accident site. Radar data indicated that N248ND was flying on a northwesterly heading. The airplane's altitude was approximately 4,200 - 4,800 feet msl and the ground speed was about 110 knots. The airplane proceeded on course until about 0126. The radar data indicated that the airplane entered descending turns to the left. The airplane completed 6 1/2 turns before it was lost from radar. The last radar return recorded was at 0133. It indicated the airplane's altitude was about 1,900 feet msl (less than 400 feet agl). The pilot reported to the NTSB the following information: "First, I should not have taken off thinking that I might get tired. I should have requested flight following to keep my attention. Possibly [I] should have recognized symptoms of fatigue and possibly state of consciousness, and landed before losing consciousness." The post accident inspection of the airplane revealed no preexisting anomalies that could be associated with a pre-impact condition.

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

The pilot's failure to get the proper rest prior to the night cross country flight and the pilot's failure to maintain altitude. Contributing factors to the accident were fatigue as a result of inadequate sleep, conditions conducive to fatigue, and night.

Full narrative available

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