NTSB Identification: WPR10FA120
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, January 28, 2010 in Phoenix, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/04/2012
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N293PA
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.

Shortly after takeoff for the student pilot’s second solo cross-country flight, she was advised by the air traffic controller to make a departure on the right downwind leg of the traffic pattern. While on the downwind leg, the pilot requested to return to the airport and make a full-stop landing. The controller instructed the pilot to continue the right-hand pattern and to follow the traffic in front of her. The controller then inquired if she needed assistance, to which she responded “because of ceiling.” The controller again advised her to follow the traffic in front of her, and she responded that she had it in sight. The controller then cleared her to land, which she acknowledged. The controller subsequently asked the pilot if she had the runway in sight, after which a short inaudible transmission was received. A review of the radar data indicated that the pilot was following a normal right-hand traffic pattern until the base leg, where she overflew the final approach for the runway. Witnesses in the area reported seeing the airplane flying very low before hearing a loud bang. The airplane impacted a low wire span about 30 feet above ground level and continued another 400 feet before hitting another set of wires and crashing into a field. The weather reported in the area at the time by witnesses and first responders was low clouds and fog. It is likely that the pilot either encountered the low clouds or was attempting to remain below the clouds when the collision with the wires occurred. Postaccident examination of the airplane and engine did not reveal evidence of a mechanical failure or malfunction that would have precluded normal operation. Visual flight rules (VFR) conditions existed over most of western Arizona; however, the accident site bordered the area between marginal VFR and VFR conditions. The weather observation at the time of the accident included a 1,000-foot broken cloud layer with 5 miles of visibility.

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

The student pilot’s decision to take off in marginal visual flight rules conditions, which resulted in an encounter with low clouds, and the pilot's failure to maintain clearance from wires while maneuvering in the traffic pattern for landing.

Full narrative available

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