NTSB Identification: WPR11FA145
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 25, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/08/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N910PA
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 airplane struck a rock outcropping near the peak of a 4,600-foot mountain during a night training flight that included very-high frequency omnidirectional radio range and GPS tracking and intercepting maneuvers in visual meteorological conditions. The airplane had a flight instructor and two pilot-rated students onboard. It could not be determined who was flying the airplane at the time of the accident. According to the operator, the flight instructor had been counseled not to fly in that particular area at night because it was dark with no ambient surface light to illuminate the area. The flight school had other approved areas designated for night training flights. It is likely that the pilots were practicing a tracking or intercepting maneuver while not adequately monitoring the environment, which lacked illumination, to maintain sufficient altitude as they approached mountainous terrain. The damage to the airplane and associated ground scars were consistent with the airplane flying in a straight-and-level attitude before impacting the rock outcropping. Postaccident examination of the airplane and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

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

The pilot and flight instructor's failure to adequately monitor the flight task and environment while maneuvering to maintain sufficient altitude with rising terrain in dark night conditions and the flight instructor's improper decision to practice in an area known to have no illumination, which led to collision with a rock outcropping.

Full narrative available

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