NTSB Identification: CEN09LA597
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, September 22, 2009 in Columbia, MO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/15/2010
Aircraft: PIPER PA-12, registration: N3234M
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

Due to adverse weather conditions, the pilot landed at a grass airstrip en route to his destination. The airport manager stated that a front was approaching the airport and that it rained all night. According to the airport manager, the pilot returned to the airport the next morning, started the airplane, and taxied to the fuel pump. The right fuel cap was missing. He drained the fuel sump repeatedly because he found water in the right tank. The airport manager gave the pilot a fuel cap for the right tank so that he could depart. Witnesses reported seeing the airplane flying 50–60 feet above the ground with the engine sputtering and cutting in and out prior to the accident. Airplane impact damage was consistent with a steep nose-down attitude with about 80 degrees of left roll. Witnesses reported heavy cloud cover and limited visibility due to light-to-moderate fog. Observed weather near the accident site was 1/4 mile visibility in fog with an indefinite ceiling at 100 feet. The Weather Depiction Chart depicted an area of instrument-flight-rule (IFR) conditions along and behind the cold front. The accident site was located in an area of IFR conditions, with the departure and planned destination airports under visual flight rules (VFR) conditions. The pilot was not instrument rated, and the airplane was not equipped for IFR flight. The inspection of the engine and airframe revealed no preimpact anomalies. The propeller blades were bent aft from impact forces.

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

The pilot's continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which included low ceilings and fog, and his failure to maintain control of the airplane. Contributing to the accident was the partial loss of engine power as a result of water contamination of the fuel.

Full narrative available

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