On November 11, 1997, at 2100 central standard time (cst), a Piper PA-28-235, N9404W, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed during a collision with the ground while in a descent. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was not operating on a flight plan. The pilot stated visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. He said he was piloting the airplane on a night cross country flight in freezing rain under an overcast ceiling that was about 5,000 feet above mean sea level (msl). The pilot reported minor injuries. The flight departed Montezuma, Kansas, about 2030 cst.

The pilot said his airplane's "Windshield picked up ice..." during the flight. He said he began to descend " 3,500 feet msl to prepare for landing..." as the airplane neared its destination. According to the pilot, N9404W's altimeter "...stayed at 4,000 feet when he passed that level." He continued, "The airplane felt like it was going down but [the] altimeter stayed at 4,000 feet. I hit the ground and the altimeter went to 3,000 feet." He said, "I did not know I was that close to the ground." The accident site's terrain elevation was about 3,000 feet msl.

During an interview the pilot said the airplane's windshield was covered with ice. He said the static port was covered with ice due to the freezing rain. The pilot said he did not obtain a weather briefing because the weather was good at his departure point.

The accident airplane's pitot-static system ports are on a single assembly located on the left wing. The pitot-tube is an electrically heated unit. The static port is located on the aft side of the pitot tube. The pilot stated he did not have the pitot heat "ON."

N9404W's altimeter had been checked on November 30, 1994. The altimeter was functionally checked on November 19, 1997. The altimeter was tested in a climb of 1,500 feet per minute (fpm) to an altitude of 11,000 feet. The examination revealed it functioned normally except it indicated about 120 feet low. During the altimeter's descent check, it was tested at a rate of 1,500 fpm between 11,000 feet to 6,000 feet. Once at 6,000 feet its descent rate was reduced to 300 fpm until it showed 1,000 feet. The altimeter functioned normally in the descent except it indicated 50 to 80 feet low. There was no indication of sticking or rough operation at any altitude tested.

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