NTSB Identification: ERA10FA099
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 24, 2009 in Heflin, AL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/07/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-140, registration: N1277T
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 student pilot departed on a night cross-country flight in his recently purchased airplane to visit his girlfriend. He had not received cross-country or instrument flight training, and did not hold the appropriate endorsements for the flight. The airplane impacted terrain about 35 miles east of the departure airport along a direct route to the destination airport. Examination of the airplane and engine revealed no preexisting mechanical anomalies and, at the crash site, a lack of damage to surrounding trees and the symmetrical aft crushing of both wings indicated that the airplane impacted the ground vertically, while in a stall/spin. Witnesses and recorded weather observations revealed the presence of heavy rain and high winds in the vicinity of the accident site at the time of the accident and the student pilot's flight instructor and a friend told him not to fly on the day of the accident due to the weather.

At the time of the accident, the student pilot had accumulated 26 hours of total flight experience. Toxicology testing and evidence found in the wreckage suggested that the pilot had likely taken at least twice the prescribed dose of stimulant medications in the 40 hours preceding the accident, and likely ingested alcohol around the time of the flight. The pilot’s actions suggested impaired decision-making from use of prescription stimulants and recent alcohol use. The pilot had denied any medical conditions or medications in his application for a Federal Aviation Administration Airman Medical Certificate less than 2 months prior to the accident.

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

The student pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed during night, adverse weather conditions, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the student pilot's decision to attempt a flight that he was not qualified for and his decision to ignore known adverse weather conditions. Also contributing was the student pilot's impairment due to prescription medication and alcohol.

Full narrative available

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