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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA11LA104
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 02, 2011 in Benton, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/12/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-161, registration: N42997
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The instrument-rated pilot was on the return leg of a three-leg cross country flight at night when he encountered clouds in his path. He considered climbing above the clouds, but he was concerned that he would not be able to descend back down through them. He elected to descend below the clouds, and misjudged the distance between the clouds and the ground. The airplane collided with trees and terrain at an elevation of about 2,200 feet in a remote, wooded area. The airplane sustained substantial damage by impact forces and post-crash fire. The pilot reported he did not see the trees or the terrain prior to the collision. Additionally, he stated that there were no mechanical issues with the airplane during the flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from terrain during the night flight.