NTSB Identification: WPR11FA145
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, February 25, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N910PA
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On February 25, 2011, about 2005 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-28-181, N910PA, impacted mountainous terrain about 20 miles northeast of Deer Valley Airport (DVT), Phoenix, Arizona. Bird Acquisition LLC., d.b.a. TransPac Aviation Academy, operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as an instructional local area flight. The certified flight instructor (CFI) and two students were fatally injured. The airplane was substantially damaged during the impact sequence and subsequent post impact fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the night instrument training flight. A company flight plan had been filed for the flight that had departed DVT about 1907. The flight was scheduled to return to DVT about 2230.

According to the operator, they initiated their overdue airplane procedures 1/2 hour after the flight did not return to their facility. They contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, and search-and-rescue efforts were initiated. The airplane was located the following morning, February 26, at the summit of Bronco Peak by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) aviation unit.

Bronco Peak is located in the Tonto National Forest northeast of DVT, at an elevation of 4,600 feet. The airplane came to rest on a 10-degree slope. The cockpit sustained extensive fire damage. The first identified point of contact was 900 feet south of the main wreckage, which consisted of pieces of the left wing.

There were no known witnesses to the accident.

Reported Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) for DVT at 1853 reported calm wind; clear skies; visibility 10 statute miles; temperature was 14 degrees Celsius; dew point was minus 01 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting was 29.90 inches of Mercury.

An inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and representatives from TransPac Aviation Academy, Piper Aircraft, and Textron Lycoming, parties to the investigation, accompanied the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) to the accident site on February 27, 2011. It had snowed the night before and the accident site was covered in snow.

The wreckage was distributed along a magnetic heading of 200 degrees. The first identified point of impact was on the north-facing side of the Bronco Peak summit. On the north face is a vertical rock outcropping that is aligned along a north and south point. About halfway down the rock outcropping investigators observed the first identified point of contact (FIPC); the left wing section with attached aileron. Investigators estimated the height of the rock outcropping to be about 15 feet in height. At the top of the rock outcropping were paint chips as well as aluminum transfer. About 20 feet upslope of the outboard left wing was the left wing center section. Both of these pieces were located on the southeast side of the rock outcropping.

On the northwest side of the rock outcropping, about 50 feet upslope from the FIPC, investigators located the left inboard wing section with flap and fuel tank. Approximately 30 feet upslope of the left inboard wing section was the left main landing gear. Investigators did not find any debris from the left landing gear to the summit.

The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, empennage and tail section, and the engine. The fuselage section was inverted and mostly consumed by the post crash fire. The empennage section exhibited fire damage. The tail section came to rest inverted; investigators noted that all of the flight controls remained attached. Due to terrain and environmental conditions investigators were only able to partially verify control continuity from the tail to cabin area. All major flight control surfaces were identified on scene.

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