On June 26, 1997, at 1815 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140, N6306R, impacted terrain at 11,300 feet above mean sea level (msl) north of Independence Pass near Leadville, Colorado. The commercial pilot received minor injuries and the aircraft sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for this ferry flight operating under Title 14 CFR Part 91 and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed Mineola Wisener Field, Texas (3F9) at 1205 mountain daylight time and made a fuel stop at Cluck Airfield, Gruver, Texas, departing that facility at 1550.

According to the pilot's statement, and information gained in telephone interviews with the pilot, the aircraft broker, and the new owner, the flight was a ferry flight to deliver the aircraft to the new owner in Anniston, Connecticut. According to the broker in Texas, who handled the transaction, the pilot said he was going to Nashville, Tennessee, on the first leg of his flight. Both the broker and the new owner were surprised when the aircraft ended up near Leadville, Colorado. The pilot said he was going to Aspen, Colorado, to visit a friend.

In his statement, the pilot said he climbed to 12,000 feet above mean sea level (msl) in preparation for crossing Independence Pass (elevation 12,095 feet msl) but the aircraft would not maintain that altitude and the engine rpm decreased from 2,600 rpm to 2,350 revolutions per minute. He said the aircraft descended at 75 to 150 feet per minute.

When reading his map, the pilot said he interpreted it to show an open area ahead of him where he could reverse course. This did not turn out to be the case, and made an off air field forced landing a necessity. According to the pilot, when he touched down, shrubbery forced the nose down and the aircraft nosed over and came to rest on its back. The pilot said he exited the aircraft and walked to the highway where he caught a ride into Aspen and went to the hospital. He was treated for minor cuts and released.

Examination of the aircraft following recovery provided evidence of damage to the propeller, crushing to the top of the cowl, top of the fuselage above the cockpit, upper surface of the outer wings, and the top of the vertical stabilizer.

A review of performance information was conducted based on the known altitude of 11,300 feet msl, reported aircraft weight of 1,623 pounds, and reported temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit (F). According to the attached PA-28-140 climb performance chart, a temperature of 54 degrees F at 11,000 feet msl is off the top of the chart thus making it impossible to calculate climb performance capability. According to Piper Aircraft, the PA-28-140 is no longer in the flight envelope under those conditions and will not be capable of maintaining altitude. In addition, Piper safety personnel and Lycoming engine personnel, said it is normal for rpm to bleed off under those conditions of decreased power available and propeller loading.

Following recovery of the aircraft and examination of the engine, it was found that the engine was not damaged and could be run. The engine was run, mounted on the airframe using normal aircraft fuel feed. It was run with a substitute propeller and the original propeller. On both engine runs, the engine performed in a normal fashion and produced maximum static rpm for the temperature and altitude present.

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