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On December 27, 1994, approximately 1718 central standard time, a Piper PA-24-250, N8112P, was destroyed when it collided with terrain during descent approximately 29 nautical miles north- northeast of Van Horn, Texas. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Weather conditions at the accident site could not be determined.
Family members said the pilot and his wife were returning to Llano, Texas, from a California vacation. Records indicate that at 1223 on the day of the accident, he purchased 22.1 gallons of fuel at Van Nuys, California, then flew to Tucson, Arizona, where he purchased 45.2 gallons at 1428. According to the control tower, N8112P departed at 1458. The pilot contacted El Paso, Texas, approach control, was assigned a discrete transponder code of 4666, and entered its class C airspace. At 1653, the airplane exited El Paso's airspace, was assigned transponder code 1200, and radar services were terminated.
According to the fixed base operator (FBO) Pecos, Texas, the pilot contacted him "some time between 1715 and 1730" and reported he was "20 minutes out," and requested that he remain at the airport until he arrived because he needed to purchase fuel. The FBO noted that there was "a ragged 1,000 foot overcast ceiling and good visibility." This was the last known radio communication from the airplane. The airplane failed to arrive at Pecos. Homing on ELT (emergency locator transmitter) signals, a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter crew located the wreckage the following morning about 57 miles west of Pecos. Although the pilot was instrument rated, he did not file a flight plan.
Two weather satellite photographs of the west Texas area were examined. These photographs showed cloud cover in the vicinity, and at the approximate time, of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Wreckage scatter was aligned on a magnetic heading of 081 degrees and extended for 210 feet. There was a ground scar, 25 feet long and 8 feet wide, on the side of the hill. At a point 71 feet from this scar was the right wing tip. At the 180 foot point was a second ground scar measuring 17 feet long and 10 feet wide. The airplane was found inverted 210 feet from the first ground scar.
On the evening following the accident, it was noted that darkness was approaching at the approximate time of the accident. It was also noted that at the accident site, no ground lights were observed. The accident site was situated in an uninhabited area of rolling hills.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed by the El Paso Mortuary Service. Toxicology protocol, conducted by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute, was negative for drugs and alcohol.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
NTAP (National Track Analysis Program) data retrieved from the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) showed N8112P tracking outbound from the El Paso (ELP) Vortac on V66-198. Radar contact was lost in the vicinity of the Hudspeth (HUP) Vortac when the airplane was at an encoded altitude of 6,500 feet MSL. Evidence indicates the airplane was tracking outbound on V-66 when it collided with a hill at the 5700-foot level, about 39 n.m. east of the Hudspeth Vortac and 54 n.m. miles west of the Pecos Vortac. Elevation at the Pecos Airport is 2,617 feet MSL.
The digital radios installed in N8112P were later tested. When electrical power was applied, the active frequency for the number 1 navigation receiver was blank and the standby frequency was 115.0 mHz (Hudspeth Vortac). The active frequency on the number 2 navigation receiver was 111.9 mHz and the standby frequency was 115.0 mHz. One of the LED display bars in the active frequency window was inoperative. Technicians said it was possible that the frequency displayed was actually 111.8 mHz, the Pecos Vortac frequency. The DME (distance measuring equipment) was found coupled to the number 2 navigation receiver.
The wreckage was released to the pilot's representative on December 29, 1994.