NTSB Identification: IAD05LA137.
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Accident occurred Sunday, September 18, 2005 in Tiffin, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/31/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-24-260, registration: N9311P
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

When the pilot arrived at the airport, the weather included an estimated ceiling "about treetop level," and the visibility was about 1/2 mile due to fog. The pilot carried on a conversation with the airport manager for about an hour, then drove over to his hangar to "wash the windshield of his airplane." Witnesses then heard the airplane depart, but could not see it due to fog and the low ceiling. One witness said, "I just heard him takeoff. I was surprised that anyone would takeoff in those weather conditions." The published takeoff minimums for the airport were ceiling 300 feet, with 1 mile visibility. The airplane impacted trees and terrain about 1 minute after takeoff, and pieces of angularly cut wood were found along the 400-foot wreckage path. Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any pre-impact failures or malfunctions. Interviews and FAA records showed that the pilot was instrument rated, but did not obtain a weather briefing or file a flight plan prior to departure. Toxicological testing of the pilot revealed the presence of prescription stimulants and antidepressants. The extent to which these drugs may have affected the pilot could not be determined.

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

The pilot's decision to takeoff in weather below the published takeoff minimums, which resulted in spatial disorientation and the airplane's collision with trees and terrain. Factors in the accident were the instrument meteorological conditions, and the pilot's inadequate weather evaluation.

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