ATL03LA011
ATL03LA011

On October 31, 2002, at 0950 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28R-200, N15704, registered to Dorsch Aviation, LLC, and operated by the private pilot, collided with mountainous terrain while maneuvering in the vicinity of Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The pilot received minor injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by post-collision fire. The flight originated from Smith Reynolds Airport in Winston Salem, North Carolina, at 0900.

The pilot stated he departed Winston Salem, North Carolina, with the intention of practicing flight maneuvers in the local area. Once airborne, he decided instead to proceed northwest to Abingdon, Virginia, at 6,500 feet mean sea level (msl). The pilot stated he tuned in the Virginia Highlands Airport, Abingdon, Virginia, UNICOM frequency and could hear other pilots in the pattern at the airport. Approximately 30 miles east of Abingdon, Virginia, the pilot noticed clouds building at 5,000 feet msl, and he elected to turn around and go back to Winston Salem, North Carolina. The pilot stated he descended the airplane through a half- to one-mile gap in the clouds, and, at 4,500 feet msl, he noticed clear ice began to form rapidly on the airplane. He turned on the pitot heat and continued his descent to 2,500 msl. As the airplane continued the descent, the pilot observed ice melting off the airframe. The pilot stated his flight altitude was low for the mountainous terrain, and he maneuvered the airplane to remain within valleys. The pilot stated he saw a ridgeline in his flight path and initiated a climb at 600 to 700 feet per minute. The airplane collided with trees at the top of the rising terrain and caught fire. The pilot exited the cabin, sought shelter under a separated piece of wreckage, and contacted rescue personnel via his cell phone and transceiver. At 1830, the pilot was rescued.

Examination of the accident site disclosed that the wreckage was located approximately 10 feet below the top of Pond Mountain. The left wing was separated, and the main wreckage was consumed by post-collision fire. The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions.

At 1000, recorded weather data for Virginia Highlands Airport, Abingdon, Virginia, reported winds at 250 degrees at 4 knots, skies overcast at 1,900 feet, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 5 degrees Celsius, dew point 3 degrees Celsius, altimeter 30.13" Hg. The pilot stated he did not obtain a preflight weather briefing.

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