NTSB Identification: ERA10FA148
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, February 23, 2010 in Springfield, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/03/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-180, registration: N7778W
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 pilot departed on the final 2-hour leg of a multi-leg flight into night instrument meteorological conditions after purchasing enough fuel to fly approximately 2 hours. He conducted the flight to his destination without the navigational publications for the route of flight, the instrument approaches at the destination airport, and with a Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational software data card that expired 4 years prior to the accident. Nearing his destination, the pilot contacted an air traffic controller and requested a non-directional beacon approach that was out of service, as posted in a notice to airman. The pilot then asked for a "GPS overlay" of the approach, and was advised that there was none. The pilot was issued a clearance for a GPS approach, subsequently reported crossing waypoints on the approach, then announced that his destination was in sight before cancelling his instrument clearance. There were no further transmissions received from the pilot.

Examination of the airplane at the accident site, approximately one-half mile from the destination airport, revealed no evidence of fuel and no evidence of mechanical anomalies with the engine or airframe. A 375-ml bourbon bottle, which contained approximately 100 ml of bourbon, was removed from the pilot's pocket during the medical examiner's recovery at the site.

Toxicological testing revealed that the pilot's blood alcohol content was 0.11 percent. A review of law enforcement and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records revealed that the pilot had been arrested for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence (DUI) on at least two occasions, only one of which he reported. Further research of the pilot's records by the FAA revealed that they had improperly coded the pilot's medical application, which precluded the FAA from crosschecking information from his medical applications with the National Driver Register for potential alcohol-related motor vehicle actions. FAA processes did not independently identify at least two prior convictions of the pilot for DUI, though he had informed them of one of the events, and the FAA had not requested details of the offense reported. The NTSB obtained the arrest report for the event reported to the FAA by the pilot, and the arrest report noted that the pilot had been driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percent. Given the pilot's history of multiple episodes of driving while intoxicated, and particularly given the level of tolerance exhibited by driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.20 percent, it is almost certain that he was substance dependent, a condition that is disqualifying for medical certification. Had the appropriate information been requested, the FAA would have known that the pilot was likely substance dependent and could have taken appropriate action, particularly given that the pilot had applied for and received 1st class medical certification.

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

The pilot's inadequate preflight planning, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion, and the pilot's impairment due to alcohol. Contributing to the accident was the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to adequately oversee the pilot's medical certification.

Full narrative available

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