NTSB Identification: ERA11FA422
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, July 25, 2011 in Berne, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/15/2012
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-180, registration: N1279T
Injuries: 1 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 pilot departed without filing a flight plan or obtaining a weather briefing. Witnesses near the accident site described hearing an airplane “low to the ground” as it approached them. They said it was in a left-wing-low attitude just prior to striking trees and disappearing from view. One witness said that the engine was “really loud” and that the airplane appeared just above the trees and just beneath the clouds that were “right on top of the trees." The airplane struck trees and rising terrain traveling opposite the intended direction of flight. The pilot of a police helicopter dispatched to the scene immediately after the accident reported that he chose to abort the mission about 1/4 mile before reaching the crash site due to weather conditions. He stated that he was unable to access a position directly over the scene due to rising terrain and low clouds. Postaccident examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact mechanical anomalies.

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

The pilot's continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a collision with trees and rising terrain while attempting to reverse course. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's failure to obtain a preflight weather briefing.

Full narrative available

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