On September 16, 1999, about 1840 Pacific daylight time, a Piper PA-28-180, registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with trees in mountainous terrain located about 13 miles southwest of Eatonville, Washington. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the commercial pilot, the sole occupant, received minor injuries. The flight had departed from Renton, Washington, about 30 minutes prior to the accident.

During a telephone interview and subsequent written statement, the pilot reported that he received a standard weather briefing from Seattle Flight Service Station prior to departure. The briefing included hazy conditions along the route. The pilot's intended route of flight was to pass on the southeast side of the military restricted areas, then down the valley to Scappoose, Oregon, at about 2,000 to 2,500 feet. The pilot stated that, "I got too far southeast of the military areas into rising terrain of forrested [sic] valleys and ridges, with the tops of the ridges in the clouds." The pilot opted to reverse course and was about half-way through the turn, when the aircraft encountered rising terrain. The pilot pulled-up prior to colliding with several small trees on up-sloping terrain.

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical failures or malfunctions with the aircraft at the time of the accident.

The aircraft was recovered by HLM Air Services, Independence, Oregon. The recovery personnel reported that the aircraft collided with several young Douglas Fir trees averaging between 20 and 30 feet in height. The accident site was located in mountainous terrain at the 3,190 foot elevation.

The nearest weather reporting facility to the accident site was from Olympia, Washington, located approximately 28 nautical miles west of the accident site. The 1856, surface observation reported a visibility of ten miles. The ceiling was reported as 2,800 feet scattered. The temperature was 61 degrees, and the wind was calm.

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