NTSB Identification: CEN11FA557
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, August 08, 2011 in Millersburg, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/18/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-23, registration: N2286P
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 pilot received a weather briefing on the day before the visual flight rules flight during which he was informed that the weather conditions near his destination would be deteriorating. The pilot departed in night visual conditions. Toward the end of his planned flight, he flew over the destination airport but was unable to see it due to weather conditions that he described to an air traffic controller as “too thick.” The pilot informed the controller that he wanted to fly back toward Columbus, Ohio. About 1 minute later, the pilot informed the controller that he wanted to change his destination to a second airport, which is located about 24 miles northwest of his original destination. While en route to the second airport, the pilot was informed of a notice to airmen indicating that the runway lights at that airport were out of service. Fourteen minutes later, the air traffic controller in communication with the pilot asked if he wanted another airport or to proceed to his second destination. The pilot stated that, once again, he wanted to head back to Columbus. Shortly thereafter, the pilot informed the controller that he wanted to land at a third airport. On the approach to the third airport, the pilot was initially unable to see it because fog was in the area and the airport beacon was out of service; further, he was using the wrong frequency to activate the pilot-controlled runway lights. An air traffic controller informed the pilot of the correct frequency and shortly thereafter the pilot reported that he had the runway in sight. Several witnesses reported seeing and hearing the airplane as it flew over the area. One witness, who was a pilot living adjacent to the airport, stated that he heard the airplane make three passes over the airport from different directions beginning about 25 minutes before the accident. The airplane subsequently impacted trees and terrain in an upsloping wooded area that bordered the south side of the airport. A postaccident examination of the airplane and engines did not reveal any preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. It is likely that the pilot was unable to see the airport and continued to fly in the vicinity searching for the runway, and subsequently lost situational awareness and struck trees.

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

The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance with terrain during the landing approach in night conditions and fog. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning.

Full narrative available

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