NTSB Identification: LAX07FA219.
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Accident occurred Friday, July 13, 2007 in El Cajon, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N38137
Injuries: 2 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.

Radar data disclosed that the pilot flew the airplane from the departure airport toward the accident site, with the last recorded target at 610 feet above ground level (agl) over rising mountainous terrain. The floor of the radar coverage in the area was about 200 feet agl. The accident site was located at an elevation of about 2,293 feet mean sea level (msl) on the slope of a bowl-shaped box canyon about 25 nautical miles (nm) from the departure airport. In character, the canyon and surrounding hills were steeply sloped, averaging between 60 to 80 degrees, with the tops of the canyon terrain about 700 feet higher than the accident site elevation and 1,000 feet laterally in front of the wreckage. An analysis of the airplane's climb performance capability found that a lateral distance of 2 miles would be required to climb 700 feet. Ground scar analysis, impact signatures, and wreckage fragmentation patterns disclosed that the airplane impacted in a descending steep vertical nose down attitude traveling downslope. The impact geometry was consistent with the airplane encountering an accelerated stall while attempting a course reversal in the canyon. The width of the canyon immediately surrounding the wreckage measured about 1,250 feet. With a turn radius of 637.5 feet, and airspeed of 99 knots (maneuvering speed), the bank angle required for the airplane to complete a 180-degree turn was a minimum of 55 degrees. According to stall speed versus angle of bank data, the stall speed would be 55 knots at 55 degrees of bank. No evidence of mechanical malfunction or failure was found during a post accident examination of the airplane and engine. The pilot had accumulated 75 hours total flight experience, of which about 2 hours was in the same make and model as the accident airplane and acquired in the location of the departure airport.

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

the pilot's inadequate in-flight decision to attempt low altitude flight operations into a box canyon in mountainous terrain, and his failure to maintain an adequate airspeed while maneuvering to reverse direction, which led to an accelerated stall and spin.

Full narrative available

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