NTSB Identification: ERA09FA060
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, November 17, 2008 in Smithfield, RI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/09/2009
Aircraft: PIPER PA-38-112, registration: N2316P
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 airplane approached the airport in night visual meteorological conditions, with an instrument-rated private pilot and a private-pilot-rated passenger. The pilot received clearance for a practice very-high-omnidirectional-range/global-positioning-system approach. At 1,900 feet mean sea level (msl) and prior to the final approach fix (FAF), the pilot was cleared for the practice approach and a frequency change was approved. There was no further communication with the accident flight. Radar data showed the accident flight on a ground track associated with the approach and in a steady descent from the FAF to 500 feet msl, or 80 feet above ground level (agl) and near the first tree strike. The accident occurred approximately 2/3 mile from the threshold of runway 33. The airplane was on the correct ground track for the approach when it initially struck trees approximately 80 feet agl. The minimum descent altitude for the approach was 980 feet msl, or 539 feet agl. No evidence of any preimpact mechanical discrepancies were found with the airframe or engine that would have prevented a successful completion of the approach. Recorded weather conditions at the airport near the time of the accident included a broken cloud layer at 8,000 feet, surface visibility 10 statute miles, and a surface wind from the northwest at 6 knots.

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

The pilot's improper descent below the published minimum descent altitude during the approach, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.

Full narrative available

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