NTSB Identification: WPR12FA255
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, June 09, 2012 in Mountain Home, ID
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/05/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32-300, registration: N8990N
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 noninstrument rated pilot was on a visual flight rules cross-country flight, headed west over mountainous terrain. He had been en route about 3 hours and was about 60 nautical miles from his destination when the accident occurred. Radar data indicated that until a few minutes before the accident, the pilot maintained a direct course west toward the destination. During the last 2 minutes of the flight, the airplane turned left to an east heading then immediately turned right, back to a west/northwest heading. The last radar return showed the airplane at an altitude of 7,600 feet mean sea level (msl) about 0.27 mile from the accident site. The airplane impacted terrain at an elevation of about 7,400 feet in a right-wing-low attitude.

Weather radar showed rain/snow showers and satellite imagery showed abundant cloud cover over the accident site at the time of the accident. The cloud cover was moving from west to east and had tops about 22,000 to 23,000 feet msl. An AIRMET in the area of the accident reported mountain obscuration conditions, and the reported freezing level was about 7,500 feet. When rescue personnel arrived at the scene several hours later, they found 8 to 10 inches of snow on the ground. The airplane's flightpath and the weather data are consistent with the flight encountering snow showers and possibly reduced visibility in the vicinity of the accident site. The airplane's flight track suggests that the pilot initially turned back when he encountered the deteriorating weather but decided to proceed toward his destination when the collision with mountainous terrain occurred. Examination of the airplane's airframe and engine found no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Toxicological testing of specimens from the pilot detected medications that were unlikely to have posed a significant hazard to flight safety.

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

The noninstrument-rated pilot's continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into mountainous terrain.

Full narrative available

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