NTSB Identification: WPR12FA420
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, September 13, 2012 in Strawberry, AZ
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N4188E
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On September 13, 2012, about 1453 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N4188E, collided with wooded terrain within a canyon near Strawberry, Arizona. CAE Global Academy Phoenix (CAE) was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as an instructional flight. The student pilot, certified flight instructor (CFI), and private pilot-rated passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence, and was subsequently consumed by post impact fire. The cross-country flight departed Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona, at 1412, with a planned destination of Payson, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The student pilot was enrolled in the KLM Flight Academy (KLS) flight training program, and receiving flight training at CAE. The ground portion of the training was provided by KLS in the Netherlands, with the flight portion performed at the facilities of CAE in Mesa, under a training services agreement between the two companies. The flight training was provided by CAE in accordance with the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) standards JAR-FCL 1.055, as a European Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) approved, integrated Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) program. CAE provided aircraft, flight instructors, and training facilities as part of the agreement. Check rides and progress phase checks were performed by evaluator pilots employed by KLS, who held JAA examiner authorizations.

The airplane was occupied by the student pilot, located in the forward left seat, the CFI in the forward right seat, and the private pilot rated passenger (evaluator), located in an aft seat. Both the student and evaluator were Dutch citizens, and the CFI was a United States citizen. The evaluator held an airline transport pilot certificate with flight examiner, and class examiner rating authorization, issued in Europe; his Federal Aviation Administration private pilot’s license was issued on the basis of his JAA license.

The purpose of the flight was to conduct a phase check for the student as part of his training towards JAA certification. Prior to departure, the evaluator reported to a CAE instructor that his intention was to have the student plan for a VFR flight to Winslow, Arizona, with a subsequent emergency practice diversion (the destination of which was unknown to the student) to Payson.

The airplane did not return at the expected time, and became the subject of an Alert Notice (ALNOT) about 1800. A search was conducted by the Civil Air Patrol, utilizing radar data and network-based cell phone signal analysis, and the airplane was subsequently located about 2100 on September 14.

Preliminary radar data revealed a target departing Falcon Field runway 22L, and initiating a climbing right turn to the north, where it followed the Verde River at an altitude of 3,300 feet mean sea level (msl). About 50 miles north of Falcon Field, the target changed heading to the north-northeast, where over the next 10 minutes it began a climb to 5,600 feet. It then made a 35-degree right turn, entering a northeast oriented canyon. For the next 2 1/2 minutes, the target continued approximately level with the canyon rim. The last minute of radar data indicated that the target climbed to an altitude of 5,800 feet as it entered the Calf Pen Canyon, 17 miles northwest of Payson.

The airplane wreckage was located at an elevation of about 5,800 feet within a densely forested area of the Fossil Creek Wilderness, at the northeast end of Calf Pen Canyon, 4 miles beyond the last radar target. The airplane came to rest at the base of a rock abutment, and was surrounded by pine trees ranging in height from 50 to 100 feet. Scaring was present on the bark of a tree adjacent to the wreckage, and fresh rock damage was noted to the abutment at the 50-foot level. About 150 feet west, freshly cut tree limbs were noted to a tree at the 75-foot level. No other tree damage was noted. The wreckage was surrounded to the north, east, and south by steep canyon walls, rising to an elevation of about 6,800 feet.

The cabin structure, right wing, vertical stabilizer, and right stabilator were consumed by fire. The engine sustained thermal damage to its accessory case, but was otherwise intact, and still attached to the firewall. The remnants of the empennage were located underneath the fuselage debris.

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