NTSB Identification: CHI07FA026.
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Accident occurred Monday, November 20, 2006 in Wellington, IL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/31/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-235, registration: N8990W
Injuries: 1 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 airplane was destroyed during an in-flight collision with terrain during night visual meteorological conditions. The pilot contacted air traffic control (ATC) after takeoff and requested visual flight rules (VFR) flight following. ATC radar data indicated that the flight climbed to 5,500 feet mean sea level (msl) and proceeded on-course toward the intended destination. About 30 minutes into the flight, ATC informed the accident airplane of traffic in his vicinity. The other airplane was approximately 3 miles ahead of his position, northeast bound at 5,000 feet msl at that time. The accident pilot reported he did not have the traffic in sight. About 2 minutes later, ATC informed the accident pilot that the traffic was about 1-1/2 miles off his right wing. The pilot was also instructed to contact another ATC facility. The accident pilot did not respond to either transmission. The ATC radar track data suggested that the airplane subsequently entered a descending left turn, from a southeast course to a southwest course. The airplane appeared to level off at 4,900 feet msl momentarily, before it entered a descending right turn. The final radar data point was at 4,000 feet msl, which was the floor of radar coverage in the area. The airplane appeared to be in a right turn, passing through a northwest course at that time. The accident site was located approximately 1/2 mile east of the final radar data point. The accident site was located in a sparsely populated, rural agricultural area. The wreckage distribution was consistent with a low-level separation of the horizontal stabilator prior to impact. The examination also revealed that the right aft wing spars were bent upward and fractured at the wing-to-fuselage splice joint. All fracture surfaces were consistent with tensile overload failures. Stabilator and rudder control continuity was confirmed from the control surface to the aft cabin area. The post accident airframe and engine examination did not reveal any anomalies associated with an in-flight malfunction.

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

Spatial disorientation experienced by the pilot while attempting to visually locate traffic during cruise flight, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control. Contributing factors were the inadvertent overload failure of the wing spar and stabilator, and the night lighting conditions.

Full narrative available

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