NTSB Identification: ERA11FA094
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 22, 2010 in Spencer, MA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/27/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-151, registration: N30ZZ
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.

Prior to departure, the pilot allowed minimal time for the engine to warm up (0.1 hour elapsed for the accident flight, as indicated by the hour meter). While there were no eyewitnesses who saw the departure or accident, one individual located east-northeast of the departure end of the runway heard a loud sound that she attributed to a northerly departure and then heard a sound that she associated with a backfire. Another individual reported hearing a surging or sputtering sound from the engine, followed by silence. About 850 feet from the approach end of the runway opposite the takeoff runway, the left wing collided with a tree. The airplane then descended, rolled inverted and impacted the ground.

Both wing fuel tanks were breached during the accident and the amount of fuel on board the airplane at the time of the accident could not be determined. The right tank was selected to supply fuel to the engine, and first responders reported that fuel was leaking from that (breached) tank at the accident site. Examination of the flight controls, engine, engine systems, and fuel supply system revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction.

The flight previous to the accident flight occurred 7 weeks prior. At the end of that flight, the fuel quantity gauges indicated both fuel tanks were about 1/4 full. However, given the elapsed time for the accident flight, it is unlikely that the engine experienced fuel exhaustion.

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

The in-flight collision with a tree while returning to land for undetermined reasons.

Full narrative available

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