NTSB Identification: WPR13FA010
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, October 14, 2012 in Marana, AZ
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-151, registration: N151SV
Injuries: 1 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 October 14, 2012, about 1910 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-28-151, N151SV, collided with desert terrain near Marana, Arizona. The pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was substantially damaged. The personal cross-country flight departed from Benson Municipal Airport, Benson, Arizona, about 1830, with a planned destination of Imperial County Airport, Imperial, California. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed along the intended route of flight, and the pilot was receiving visual flight rules (VFR) flight following services; he had not filed a flight plan.

The pilot had flown his spouse to Benson earlier in the day and the accident flight was his return flight back to his home base. Fuel receipts indicated that in Benson he added about 28 gallons of fuel at 1216, and then added about 14 gallons at 1804. Recorded radar data and Air Traffic Control (ATC) recordings were obtained and reviewed by a National Transportation Safety Board investigator.

Recorded radar data covering the area of the accident was examined for the time frame, and a discreet secondary beacon code target was observed that matched the anticipated flight track of the airplane en route from Benson to Imperial. The radar data, consisting of returns from 1838:02 to 1907:22, was consistent with the airplane flying in a northwesterly direction and gradually climbing from about 6,600 feet mean sea level (msl) to peak altitude of 8,600 feet msl.

A review of the data disclosed that about 1850 the track was over Tucson International Airport, Tucson, Arizona, cruising at an altitude around 8,500 feet msl. The track continued another 30 miles with a majority of the radar returns spaced uniformly and following a track of about 300 degrees true. The track made a left turn and headed west for a mile and then turned back to the northwest direction for about 2 miles. The course turned southwest for 2 miles and began to descend. The returns then made a 360-degree turn from 1906:03 until the last hit at 1907:22, during which time the altitude descend by 1,700 feet.

The main wreckage was approximately 2 miles north of the last radar return at an elevation of about 2,365 feet msl. The accident site was located in the desert, with the debris stretching over 470 feet from the first impact marking to the farthest debris found (right main landing wheel); the main wreckage was situated at the end portion of the path. In character, the terrain was comprised of dirt and rocks, populated by scattered brush and cactus typical of the southern Arizona region.

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