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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN16FA087
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, January 14, 2016 in Garden City, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/20/2017
Aircraft: PIPER PA 22-108, registration: N4751Z
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 airplane and planned to fly it to a friend's private airport to show him the airplane. The private airport was located about 27 nautical miles east of the departure airport. A witness observed the pilot start the airplane's engine, but he did not observe the airplane take off. The airplane did not arrive at the destination, an alert notice was issued, and the wreckage was found the following day about 8 nautical miles southwest of the intended destination and about 6 nautical miles south of the direct route of flight. Although radar coverage was available and showed other airplanes in the accident area using a transponder code of 1200, no radar data were found for the accident flight. There were no known witnesses to the accident. The accident site was located in an area of mostly flat terrain with mesquite trees and shrubs immediately adjacent to a caliche pit that was surrounded by large dirt piles on three sides and measured about 35 ft from the bottom of the pit to the top of the dirt piles. The airplane struck the top of the dirt pile on the east side of the pit, and the debris extended 100 yards to the east, indicating that the airplane was heading east at impact. The damage to the airplane was consistent with impact at a high forward velocity in a relatively level attitude. The signatures observed on the propeller were consistent with the engine operating at a high power setting at the time of impact. There was no evidence of preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

A review of weather information found no evidence of convective activity, a significant surface wind condition, or a low-level wind shear hazard in the accident area. The reported weather conditions at stations near the accident site included clear skies, visibility of 10 miles, and wind from the west at less than 20 knots.

Although the caliche pit was a whitish color that contrasted with the brownish color of the surrounding flat terrain, the dirt pile that the airplane struck was similar in color to the surrounding terrain. Due to this color similarity, it is possible that, while flying at low altitude, the pilot did not recognize that the dirt pile was higher than the surrounding flat terrain.

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