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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN15FA347
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 09, 2015 in Harrisburg, IL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/10/2016
Aircraft: GRUMMAN AMERICAN AVN. CORP. AA 5A, registration: N9684U
Injuries: 2 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 student pilot departed for a cross-country personal flight with one passenger on a moonless night. Meteorological and astrological conditions on the night of the accident included a convective system near the accident site about the time of the accident with no moon illumination. No radar data associated with the accident airplane were identified.

Before reaching the destination airport, the student communicated to his spouse that he was returning to the airport, presumably to his point of departure. The airplane was located the following day in an unlit, heavily wooded area of a national forest. Impact signatures were consistent with the airplane's right wing striking tree tops before the airplane descended and impacted terrain in a nose-low attitude.

A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The student's logbook was not recovered, and his total and night flying experience could not be determined. It also could not be determined whether he had received any solo endorsements.

The student should not have taken off in dark, night conditions, and it is likely that, as he entered an area with little to no ambient light and cloudy weather conditions, he had no ground references or natural horizon, which resulted in his subsequent controlled descent into terrain.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The student pilot's improper decision to conduct a flight in dark, night conditions and his subsequent controlled flight into terrain.