NTSB Identification: WPR13FA072
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 18, 2012 in Payson, AZ
Aircraft: PIPER PA-31-350, registration: N62959
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 December 18, 2012, about 1825 mountain standard time, a Piper PA-31-350, N62959, was lost from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radio and radar contact about 10 miles southwest of Payson, Arizona, during an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona. The wreckage was located the following day; the pilot had received fatal injuries. The flight was being operated as Ameriflight 3853 as a cargo flight for United Parcel Service (UPS), and was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity at the time contact with the airplane was lost.

According to information from representatives of Ameriflight and UPS, the flight departed Holbrook Municipal Airport (P14), Holbrook, Arizona, about its scheduled time of 1700, with a scheduled arrival time of 1730 at Payson Airport (PAN), Payson. According to the driver of the UPS truck who was at PAN and was scheduled to meet the flight, he never saw or heard the airplane. The driver left PAN about 20 minutes after the flight was due.

According to FAA air traffic control (ATC) information, the flight's first ATC contact was with Albuquerque air route traffic control center about 1812, when the airplane was at an altitude of 13,800 feet; the pilot requested a clearance to PHX. The flight was assigned a discrete transponder code, radar identified, and then instructed to proceed "direct" to PHX. The flight was instructed to be at 10,000 feet when it was 40 miles from PHX. Shortly after the airplane reached the assigned altitude, the pilot requested a lower altitude; his request was denied due to ATC minimum vectoring altitude limitations. Shortly thereafter, radio and radar contact was lost. The last primary radar target associated with the airplane was recorded at 1824:33, at a location of N34º 06.4794' by W111º 28.2604'.

Weather conditions in the area precluded an aerial search until the following day. About 0950 MST on December 19, 2012, the wreckage was located at the same approximate latitude/longitude as the last radar target associated with the airplane, at an approximate elevation of about 7,000 feet. The accident site was located about 12.4 miles, on a true bearing of about 213 degrees, from PAN.

According to FAA information, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single- and multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings, and a flight instructor certificate with the same ratings. His most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued in August 2012. The pilot was an employee of Ameriflight. According to Ameriflight information, the pilot had a total flight experience of about 1,908 hours, including about 346 hours in the accident airplane make and model.

FAA information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1976, and was equipped with two Lycoming TIO-540 series engines. The airplane was registered to UAS Transervices, Inc., Pasadena, California. The airplane was equipped with two three-blade Hartzell propellers, and deicing boots on the wing and tail. Maintenance records information indicated that the airplane had about 19,200 hours total time in service, and had accumulated about 23,400 flight cycles.

The 1735 automated weather observation at PAN included winds from 170 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 miles; scattered clouds at 2,600 feet above ground level (agl), an overcast layer at 3,300 feet agl; temperature 6 degrees C; dew point 3 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 29.78 inches of mercury.

The 1815 automated weather observation at PAN included similar conditions, except for scattered clouds at 2,600 feet agl, a broken cloud layer at 3,100 feet agl, and an overcast layer at 4,500 feet agl. AIRMETs for icing, IFR, mountain obscuration, and moderate turbulence for the accident site about the accident time were issued several hours before the accident. There were several PIREPs of light to moderate icing for central Arizona that were issued prior the accident.

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