NTSB Identification: DEN05FA128.
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Accident occurred Friday, August 19, 2005 in Vail, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-300, registration: N4222R
Injuries: 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.

According to the pilot, he was flying eastbound along Interstate 70 with the intention of taking pictures. The pilot stated they encountered several "extreme" downdrafts and were unable to maintain altitude. The pilot stated he performed a "touch and go" landing in the eastbound lane of the interstate and was able to fly 50 to 75 feet above the road. The airplane encountered another downdraft, impacted the eastbound lane of the interstate, impacted a highway sign and bounced over the concrete barrier, traveled across the westbound lane of the interstate and came to rest off of the road, substantially damaging the airplane. The terrain at the accident location sloped up towards the north, east and south. The temperature 21 miles south of the accident location was recorded as 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Density altitude was calculated to be 11,067 feet.

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

the pilot's improper in-flight planning and decision making and failure to maintain clearance from the terrain. Contributing factors include the pilot's attempt to takeoff from the highway, high density altitude, the downdrafts, and the sign.

Full narrative available

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