NTSB Identification: WPR11FA334
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, July 18, 2011 in Joshua Tree, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/07/2012
Aircraft: PIPER PA-12, registration: N7510H
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 pilot reported that, during the cross-country repositioning flight over mountainous desert terrain, the airplane impacted the terrain, nosed over to the inverted position, and caught fire. He recalled that the engine was generating power at impact, but he could not recall any details of the flight before the impact. Data recovered from a handheld global positioning system (GPS) device indicated that, during the flight, the pilot was flying at altitudes ranging from about 100 to 1,000 feet above ground level (agl). The last position recorded by the GPS device showed the airplane about 1 nautical mile from the accident site at an altitude of about 4,100 feet mean sea level (msl), which was about 100 feet agl. The accident site was at 4,600 feet msl near the top of a ridgeline at the head of a box canyon. Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction that would have prevented normal operation. The calculated density altitude at the accident site at the time of the accident was about 7,300 feet. It is likely that the pilot flew the airplane into the box canyon, and, given the high density altitude, the airplane did not have the climb capability to clear the rising terrain.

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

The pilot's decision to conduct low altitude flight at a high density altitude and into a box canyon, which resulted in the airplane colliding with rising terrain when its climb capability was exceeded.

Full narrative available

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