NTSB Identification: IAD05FA146
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 26, 2005 in Dunkirk, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2007
Aircraft: Piper PA-28RT-201, registration: N8164H
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 accident airplane approached the Niagara Falls area from the south, and completed four 360-degree turns in the vicinity of the falls. The pilot then contacted air traffic control and requested VFR flight following services for the return trip. The airplane established an approximate southwesterly ground track and proceeded directly over the open waters of Lake Erie. About 4 minutes after crossing the shoreline, the airplane began to drift from its established course. The airplane turned to and away from the course before it began a 270-degree turn and disappeared from radar. During the final portion of the flight the airplane's altitude varied between 4,400 feet and 4,700 feet. Examination of visible satellite images taken just before dark revealed the presence of haze over Lake Erie, and infrared satellite images taken around the time of the accident revealed that clouds existed with tops between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. Examination of upper air data and high-resolution computer model soundings showed a possible cloud layer between 4,200 and 8,400 feet. Additionally, the sun had set more than an hour prior to the accident, and the moon did not rise until 2 1/2 hours after the accident. Toxicological testing performed on the pilot revealed levels of volatiles consistent with post-mortem ethanol production. Examination of the recovered wreckage revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions.

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

Loss of control for undetermined reasons.

Full narrative available

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