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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA14FA093
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 15, 2014 in Holland, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/27/2015
Aircraft: AMERICAN CHAMPION AIRCRAFT 8KCAB, registration: N469J
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot had recently purchased the newly-manufactured airplane from the factory and was returning to his home airport when the accident occurred. The weather conditions initially forecast in the vicinity of the destination airport before the pilot's departure generally were consistent with visual meteorological conditions; however, by the time the pilot was within 50 miles of the destination airport, the forecast and actual weather conditions had deteriorated to instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). Shortly before the accident, a witness observed the airplane as it flew low above the ground in visibilities of about 150 yards in dense fog. The airplane subsequently impacted the tops of trees located near the peak of rising terrain before impacting the ground. The orientation and length of the wreckage path were consistent with a controlled flight into terrain impact sequence. Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures.

The accident airplane was not equipped for flight IMC, nor did the pilot hold an instrument rating. A handheld tablet computer along with a device capable of receiving in-flight weather updates was recovered from the wreckage. It could not be determined if the pilot had used the device to observe the changing weather conditions during the accident flight; however, the pilot also could have used outside visual references and could have tuned the onboard communications radio to weather reporting stations located along the route of flight and noted that weather conditions ahead had deteriorated to IMC. Upon encountering IMC, the pilot could have diverted the flight to allow weather conditions to improve rather than continuing to the planned destination.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's continued visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, resulting in controlled flight into trees and terrain.