NTSB Identification: ERA11FA321
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, May 30, 2011 in Ellijay, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/29/2013
Aircraft: BEECH V35, registration: N29MW
Injuries: 4 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 morning of the accident, the pilot departed with three passengers for a local sightseeing flight. The airplane was last seen flying in an easterly direction. Two days after the flight was reported overdue, the wreckage was located on a mountain side at an estimated elevation of 2,990 feet mean sea level. Damage to the surrounding foliage and wreckage debris at the accident site indicated that the airplane was in a right-wing-low attitude when it made initial contact with a 50-foot-tall tree. The propeller cut several tree branches before the airplane impacted the ground where it came to rest flat. The airplane was consumed by postimpact fire; the tail empennage section and the engine with propeller were discernible.

Although the airframe sustained thermal damage, the postaccident airframe examination did not reveal any evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunction or failure that would have precluded normal operation. A postaccident engine run also did not indicate any malfunction or failure that would have prevented normal operation and production of rated power. The postaccident propeller examination revealed that it was in a low-pitch position with power applied at the time of impact.

Maintenance documentation for the airplane noted that its altimeter was not reading correctly; no corrective action was reflected in the airplane’s maintenance logbooks. However, the flight was conducted in visual meteorological conditions, and the weather on the day of the accident was such that the pilot’s ability to “see and avoid” was not hindered.

According to the pilot’s Federal Aviation Administration medical certification file, he had received a statement of demonstrated ability for limited vision in his left eye and was taking medication for high cholesterol. No other medications were reported at the time of his last aviation medical examination. However, postmortem toxicological testing identified bupropion and quetiapine in the pilot’s tissues. Bupropion, marketed under the trade names Zyban and Wellbutrin, is an atypical antidepressant used to treat depression and to help smokers quit using cigarettes. Quietapine, marketed under the trade name Seroquel, is an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disease. The extent to which these medications may have affected the pilot’s performance was not determined.

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

The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate clearance from terrain while maneuvering in a mountainous area.

Full narrative available

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