NTSB Identification: LAX08FA203
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 28, 2008 in Mount Charleston, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/11/2009
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32-300, registration: N4063W
Injuries: 4 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 pilot's initial course after takeoff would have put the airplane passing to the north of a mountain range. As the airplane continued the climb, the pilot changed course towards the mountainous terrain. The air traffic controller asked the pilot if he would be flying southwest of the mountain range, to which the pilot replied in the affirmative. The air traffic controller then terminated radar services. The airplane then made two heading changes and continued to fly into a mountain valley area. Witnesses located about 6 miles further into the valley observed the airplane flying at altitudes of 300 feet above ground level and below, and towards rising terrain. Witnesses additionally reported hearing steady engine noise consistent with high rpm. The airplane then collided with a tree and rising terrain at the base of a box canyon. The accident site was located at 7,660 feet, on a 10-degree uphill sloping valley floor. The accident site was about 6 miles west, and 860 feet above the final radar return, and 26 miles west, and 5,455 feet above the departure airport. Steep sloping canyon walls with elevations ranging between 10,000 and 11,918 feet surrounded the site immediately to the north, west, and south. From the accident site's elevation, the peak of the canyon's rim rose in excess of the airplane's climb performance capability. The calculated density altitude at the accident elevation was about 11,000 feet. The service ceiling for the airplane at a maximum gross weight was 16,250 feet. Within the valley area, about 4 miles west of the last radar return, a course reversal turn would have been possible using a bank angle of about 30 degrees. At the accident location, there was insufficient clearance from terrain to perform a course reversal. Investigators found no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures during the examination.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain and his selection of a cruise altitude that provided inadequate terrain clearance. Contributing to the accident were the high density altitude and the rapidly rising terrain.

Full narrative available

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