NTSB Identification: CEN09LA441
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, July 14, 2009 in Cincinnati, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/15/2009
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28, registration: N5519W
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that he intended to “simply enjoy several hours” of night flying and to return to the departure airport. During the flight he noticed that the aircraft compass and directional gyro indications did not match. He was not familiar with the new GPS in the airplane and he was not able to get navigational information from it. The pilot became disoriented and did not recognize any familiar landmarks. It had become very dark. He saw a rotating airport beacon so he decided to land at that airport. As he was turning from downwind to base, the airplane hit the trees paralleling the runway. Witnesses reported that they heard the airplane approaching and saw the airplane in level flight for about 3–5 seconds at tree-top level, and then the airplane impacted the trees. Postaccident inspection of the airplane revealed no preimpact anomalies.

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

The pilot's loss of situational awareness during the approach to an unfamiliar airport at night and his failure to maintain clearance from the trees. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's lack of familiarity with the airplane's navigational equipment.

Full narrative available

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