LAX94LA062
LAX94LA062

On November 30, 1993, at 0645 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA32-300, N4081W, collided with trees and mountainous terrain after encountering instrument meteorological conditions about 22 miles northeast of Fallon, Nevada. The aircraft was operated by Fallon Aeromotive, Inc., of Fallon, Nevada, and was engaged in an on-demand passenger air taxi flight under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Instrument meteorological conditions, consisting of clouds and snow showers, prevailed at the accident site. A company VFR flight plan was filed for the operation. The aircraft was destroyed in the collision sequence. The certificated commercial pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries, two passengers incurred minor injuries, and the remaining two passengers were not injured. The flight originated at 0615 hours from the Fallon airport on a VFR flight to Dixie Valley, Nevada, which is located about 60 miles northeast of Fallon and on the other side of a mountain range.

According to the Reno, Nevada, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards District Office, Fallon Aeromotive, Inc., holds an Air Taxi and Commercial Operators Certificate under 14 CFR 135, in part, for on-demand passenger flights. The operations specifications issued to the company by the FAA specify that passenger-carrying operations be conducted under VFR conditions.

The president of Fallon Aeromotive was interviewed by telephone on November 30, 1993. He stated that the company performs daily passenger flights to Dixie Valley transporting workers to a geothermal mine operation. The president stated that on the morning of the accident no formal weather briefing was obtained from either the National Weather Service or the FAA for the trip.

The destination weather was checked by a telephone call to the mine and the departure weather was verified by looking outside. In addition, enroute conditions were provided by a pilot who had just returned from Dixie Valley. He further reported that the accident aircraft was the third aircraft in a three ship flight which departed on the morning trip outbound to Dixie Valley. Two of the aircraft successfully landed at the destination.

An FAA Operations Inspector interviewed four of the passengers from the accident aircraft and the pilots of the two aircraft which successfully completed the flight to the destination. According to the two pilots, while cruising on their normal routing they encountered ceilings, mountain obscurement, and snow showers. They stated that they turned back, flew south along the mountains, and found a clear area to cross the range. The pilots reported that the accident aircraft did not accompany them as far south as they flew to find a clear path across the mountains.

Four passengers from the accident aircraft provided statements which were consistent with one another. The witnesses reported that while cruising along their normal route to Dixie Valley the flight encountered lowering clouds and snow showers. The pilot turned around and flew southbound for a while, then turned toward a saddle in the mountain range. The passengers stated that as the aircraft entered the saddle area the clouds suddenly descended on the aircraft and they could not see outside. The pilot immediately added power and tried to climb the aircraft. When trees began flashing past the side windows, the pilot pulled the power off and leveled the wings. The aircraft then collided with trees and the snow covered mountainside near the 8,000 foot level of the Stillwater Range. The passengers said they did not perceive any difficulty with the aircraft or the engine.

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