NTSB Identification: ERA09FA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, October 24, 2008 in Red Hill, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/21/2010
Aircraft: PIPER PA-24, registration: N8820P
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 flight was being operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. About 6 minutes prior to the accident, the flight was cleared to descend from its cruise altitude of 7,000 feet. About 2 minutes after the descent clearance was issued, the owner/pilot requested a diversion to a different airport, due to low visibility at the original destination. The request was approved, a heading change to 360 degrees was issued, and about 4 minutes later, the airplane departed controlled flight, and impacted terrain. A performance study revealed that after the airplane left its cruise altitude, it initially descended at a calibrated airspeed of approximately 178 mph. Once the pilot completed the diversion turn, the airspeed increased to values that ranged between 190 and 196 mph. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the two stabilators had deformed and separated prior to impact, and that one stabilator had been improperly repaired with incorrect fasteners. A review of the certification, service, and maintenance information indicated that the airplane's original maximum structural cruise speed of 180 mph was still applicable; the airplane was not to be operated above this speed except in smooth air. A weather analysis indicated moderate to severe turbulence in the vicinity of the flight track.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control due to an improper repair to the stabilator, which resulted in an in-flight failure of the stabilator. Contributing to the accident was the descent in turbulence, at airspeeds above the maximum structural cruise speed.

Full narrative available

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