NTSB Identification: WPR11FA082
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, December 22, 2010 in Lander, WY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/04/2012
Aircraft: AERO COMMANDER 114B, registration: N799RS
Injuries: 3 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 non-instrument-rated pilot and two passengers departed their home state of Texas in the single-engine airplane, bound for an airport in mountainous terrain in Idaho. No records of telephone or computer contact by the pilot to either obtain preflight weather briefings or file any flight plans were located. There were no records of contact with air traffic controllers for any portion of the multi-leg flight. About 54 hours after the airplaneā€™s departure from Texas, an overflying airliner detected and reported a 121.5-MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal. About 24 hours later, the wreckage was located by search personnel on a ridge at an elevation of about 11,700 feet. Detailed examination of the engine, propeller, and airframe did not reveal any preexisting mechanical deficiencies or failures that would have precluded normal operation. All damage patterns were consistent with controlled flight into terrain.

AIRMETs for mountain obscuration, icing, and turbulence were in effect for the accident locale at the time of the accident. Ground- and satellite-based meteorological information indicated that instrument meteorological conditions and icing likely existed at the time and location of the accident.

The accident occurred on the second leg of the second day of the trip. The majority of the 2-hour accident flight leg was conducted at 12,500 feet. Although the airplane was equipped with and the pilot had access to supplemental oxygen, it could not be determined whether he used it during the accident flight. Review of data from an onboard handheld global positioning system (GPS) unit indicated that, except for the accident flight, each leg of the trip was flown on a direct, straight-line route between the departure and destination airport. Flight track data indicated that, during the last 4 minutes of the accident flight, the airplane conducted a series of turning descents and climbs consistent with the pilot's likely attempt to navigate in and around weather in the mountainous terrain. The GPS unit incorporated a terrain database and terrain advisory features. The Sectional Aeronautical Chart maximum elevation figure (MEF) for the quadrangle that the accident occurred in was 12,800 feet. It could not be determined whether the pilot referenced, possessed, or used any sectional charts for the flight or whether he was aware of the published MEF.

Although it would not have aided the airplane occupants in this case, if the airplane had been equipped with a 406-MHz ELT, it is likely that the time and resources expended to locate the wreckage would have been significantly reduced.

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

The non-instrument-rated pilot's decision to continue visual flight in instrument or marginal visual meteorological conditions in mountainous terrain, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's lack of preflight planning to ensure that appropriate weather and terrain avoidance options remained available to him.

Full narrative available

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