NTSB Identification: WPR12FA369
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, August 25, 2012 in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/22/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32-301T, registration: N588ET
Injuries: 5 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.

While taxiing to the ramp, the airplane’s engine shut down, and it took the pilots numerous attempts to restart it. After parking, the pilots reported to the attendants that the airplane’s fuel/air mixture was difficult to establish at such a high-density altitude and that, if the engine was operated too lean, its temperature exceeded normal operation parameters. Later that day, the pilots departed in dark night conditions. During the takeoff roll, most of the runway length was used before the airplane began to climb. Several witnesses reported that the  airplane appeared to be having engine problems and, after being airborne for about 3 seconds, it descended into terrain. Additionally, some witnesses reported that the engine sounded as if it was not producing full power and that the ascent seemed labored. The airplane impacted trees located on flat terrain about 2,400 feet from the end of the runway. The main wreckage was consumed by postimpact fire. Examination of the accident site revealed that the right wing impacted a tree in a wings-level attitude. The postaccident examinations revealed no evidence of mechanical anomalies with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation. Although it could not be confirmed, it is likely that the left-seat pilot was the flying pilot and that the right-seat pilot, who owned the airplane and had been consuming alcohol before the flight, was not the pilot-in-command.   

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

A partial loss of engine power for reasons that could not be determined because examinations revealed no evidence of mechanical anomalies with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation and the pilots’ decision to continue the departure in dark night conditions with the engine not producing full power.

Full narrative available

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