NTSB Identification: CEN10LA497
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 19, 2010 in El Dorado, AR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/17/2011
Aircraft: MILLER CHARLES W VANS RV-7A, registration: N474JM
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.

The private pilot was on a 968-mile cross-country flight and stopped at an airport to purchase fuel before departing on the final leg of the trip. A witness talked to the pilot on the radio as he approached the airport and again after he landed. She stated that the pilot acted confused, appeared tired, and that he even commented on how tired he was from flying all day. After refueling, the pilot had to wait approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes for storms to move through the area. It was then dark outside and, by the time the pilot departed, he had been traveling for almost 12 hours. A witness saw the airplane take off and said it used very little runway before it climbed to 300 or 400 feet before making a left turn. The witness stated that the engine appeared to be producing takeoff power and that everything sounded normal. The airplane was later reported missing and found four days later in a heavily wooded area about 500 feet west of the runway. An on-scene examination revealed no preaccident anomalies with the engine or the airplane. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accrued a total of 274.5 hours, of which, 5.5 hours were at night. The pilot's last logged flight at night (.7 hours) was almost exactly one year prior to the accident. Positive postaccident toxicology tests were likely due to post-mortem putrefaction, although insufficient specimens existed to determine conclusively.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance with trees on takeoff at night. Contributing factors were fatigue and the pilot's lack of recent nighttime experience.

Full narrative available

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