NTSB Identification: LAX08FA001
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, October 26, 2007 in Cedar City, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/14/2009
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28R-200, registration: N3971X
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.

The non-instrument-rated private pilot's departure had been delayed, and he was in a hurry to fly home. The pilot elected to fly over mountainous terrain in dark, nighttime conditions. Recorded radar data shows that after cruising for nearly 2 hours, the airplane initially entered a slow descent from 12,600 to 11,100 feet. Thereafter, the radar track shows the airplane commencing a clockwise turn while continuing to descend. While reversing course, the pilot became spatially disoriented, and the airplane rapidly descended, as evidenced by its sudden disappearance from radar. During the descent the airplane broke apart. Wreckage was found on a 6,400-foot (mean sea level) mountain and was scattered over a 950 by 350 foot oval-shaped area. The major components that separated were the horizontal stabilator, the vertical tail surfaces, and the 6-foot-long outboard span of both wings. The propeller blades exhibited signatures consistent with the absorption of rotational energy during ground impact. No preimpact anomalies were found during the wreckage examination and all fractures were overload in character. The descending flight profile, followed by the course reversal away from the pilot's destination, was consistent with a spiral maneuver. The structural breakup resulted from aerodynamic forces induced by the pilot's recovery attempts that exceeded the airframe's strength.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control while in cruise flight due to spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident were the dark conditions.

Full narrative available

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