NTSB Identification: SEA05FA007.
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Accident occurred Thursday, October 14, 2004 in Grand Ronde, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2005
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140, registration: N454FL
Injuries: 3 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 pilot, accompanied by his two passengers, departed on a local flight with the intention of returning in two hours. After the aircraft failed to return, search and rescue operations began. The aircraft was located the following afternoon in a dense forested area approximately 32 miles southwest of its destination. A witness who was hunting in the general vicinity on the day of the accident observed the airplane approach from the south and circle the area to the northwest in a deliberate manner. The witness was concerned about the airplane's low altitude over the hilly terrain and noted, "...it looked very slow, almost at stall speed, with the tail lower than the front of the airplane." The witness listened for any indication of engine trouble, "...but it was smooth and powerful." The witness observed the airplane disappear over some trees to the east, and about 10 to 15 minutes later it returned overhead, proceeding east again until it was out of sight. The witness found out later that the airplane he observed was the same one which had crashed. Examination of the aircraft revealed no anomalies which would preclude normal operations.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from high terrain while maneuvering. A factor contributing to the accident was the high terrain. Full narrative available
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