On July 18,1994, about 1106 hours Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140, N4487X, collided with power lines and the ground during the takeoff initial climb from the Banning, California, airport. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The aircraft was destroyed in the collision sequence and postcrash fire. The aircraft owner, a commercial pilot/flight instructor, seated in the right front seat sustained fatal injuries; however, the two passengers on board incurred serious injuries. No flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight which originated in Phoenix, Arizona, on the morning of the accident. The airplane had just departed Banning after refueling and was destined for Van Nuys, California.

Investigation revealed that after arrival at Banning, 45.1 gallons of 100 LL aviation fuel were loaded into the aircraft's fuel tanks. The aircraft then taxied out and departed on the 5,200-foot-long runway 26, which has an uphill gradient of 2.4 percent.

According to witnesses on the airport, the aircraft used approximately 4,200 feet of the runway length during the ground run. Other ground-based witnesses, including a private pilot, reported that the aircraft never achieved more than 200 feet above ground level, then slowly descended in a nose-high attitude as the wings oscillated slightly. One pilot witness driving his truck on a highway parallel to the aircraft's flight path reported that the aircraft's ground speed gradually decayed below 55 mph as the nose rose higher and higher. The aircraft was observed to begin a slight left turn, then it collided with the top of a 40-foot-tall power pole and came to rest on the driveway of a commercial building.

Measurements and other data obtained from the Banning Police Department revealed that the power pole struck by the aircraft is 1.1 statute miles from the departure end of runway 26. The witnesses stated that the aircraft was on fire from the time it collided with the power pole.

No mechanical discrepancies were found during an examination of the aircraft and engine.


The right seat occupant owned the aircraft and held both commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates for single- engine airplanes. The pilot's personal flight records were not located. Review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman and medical records files revealed that the pilot reported a total of 705 total hours of civilian flight experience at the time of his last aviation medical examination.

The left seat occupant holds a combined second-class medical and student pilot certificate. The back of his student pilot certificate is endorsed for solo privileges in Cessna 172 airplanes. The passenger's flight logbook documents a total of 48 flight hours, with no time logged in the Piper PA-28 series aircraft. In an oral interview with responding law enforcement officers at the accident site, the passenger reported that he was flying the aircraft at the time of the accident. In a subsequent written statement to the National Transportation Safety Board, he denied flying the aircraft at any time.


The maximum certificated gross weight for the Piper PA-28-140 is 2,150 pounds. Using occupant weights from drivers' licenses and actual measurement of cargo and baggage, the gross weight of the aircraft at takeoff was computed to be 2,373 pounds.


The closest official weather observation station is the Palm Springs airport, which is located 20 nautical miles east of the accident site. At 1055, the Palm Springs aviation surface observation was reporting in part: "Sky 15,000 overcast; visibility 25 miles; temperature 83; dew point 49; winds from 240 degrees at 7 knots."

The ground-based witnesses at the airport stated that the temperature was 83 degrees at a minimum. Using the observed and reported outside air temperature, the density altitude was calculated at 4,244 feet.


Review of the Banning airport fueling records disclosed that immediately after the accident aircraft was fueled, another aircraft (N9313J) was fueled from the same pump with 36 gallons of aviation gasoline. Subsequent interviews with the pilot of that aircraft disclosed that no difficulties were experienced using that fuel.

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