NTSB Identification: ERA09FA027
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Selmer, TN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/21/2010
Aircraft: PIPER PA-30, registration: N7510Y
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 non-instrument-rated pilot took off under visual flight rules toward an area where, before the flight, he admitted the weather “was not too good.” Approaching the destination at night, during rain, and with the cloud ceiling about 500 feet above the ground, a witness saw the airplane fly over her house at what she estimated was about 100 feet. The airplane subsequently impacted a plowed cornfield 1.4 miles south of the witness’s house, and 12 miles north of, and headed toward, the destination airport. There were no known witnesses to the accident, and an examination of the wreckage revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have resulted in the accident. The landing gear and flaps were retracted. Wreckage path examination revealed that the airplane likely impacted the ground nose-low, and bounced once, before impacting again with the right wing down before sliding to a stop. The pilot’s required Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate had expired over 2 years prior to the accident, since which time the pilot had two strokes and coronary artery bypass surgery. Multiple medications were found in the pilot’s luggage, including a prescription antidepressant, an impairing prescription anti-anxiety medication, a sedating over-the-counter antihistamine, and over-the-counter nasal decongestants. On autopsy, a complete blockage of one coronary artery graft was noted and toxicology results indicated recent use of the antidepressant. The anti-anxiety medication and antihistamine were not reported on toxicology testing, but toxicology reporting thresholds for those substances were above the levels at which impairment could be seen. The circumstances of the accident were consistent with spatial disorientation, but given the pilot’s medical history and likely recent use of impairing medications, the possibility of impairment or incapacitation cannot be eliminated. The pilot failed to maintain a current medical certificate, used an impairing prescription medication, and knew that inclement weather existed that exceeded his qualifications. He was asked to stay overnight at a previous stop, but stated that he wanted to go home.

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

The pilot's failure to avoid terrain during night instrument meteorological conditions.

Full narrative available

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