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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA16FA169
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, April 25, 2016 in Boone, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/15/2017
Aircraft: PIPER PA32, registration: N43576
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious.

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 private pilot and two passengers were conducting a local flight from the pilot's home airport. One witness stated that his attention was drawn to the airplane due to its "very fast" landing approach. The airplane then disappeared from his view; shortly thereafter, he saw a plume of smoke in the area of a golf course on the northwest side of the airport. Several witnesses on the golf course stated that the airplane appeared to be taking off, and noted that it was "struggling," that it was "too low," and was "bobbing up and down." The airplane impacted a stand of 75-ft-tall pine trees and came to rest on the golf course, where it was consumed by a post-crash fire. The rear seat passenger was fatally injured; the pilot and front seat passenger received serious injuries. Neither the pilot nor the passenger could recall the events of the accident flight.

Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The landing runway measured 2,700 ft long by 40 ft wide. Given the witness observation of the airplane's fast approach speed, it is likely that the pilot initiated a go-around due to excessive airspeed and/or a lack of runway remaining on which to stop; however, it could not be determined when the pilot began the go-around maneuver. The airplane's low altitude as it climbed away from the runway suggests that the pilot may have initiated the go-around near touchdown or possibly even after touching down. Had the pilot started the go-around earlier, after recognizing the airplane's unstabilized approach due to excessive airspeed, he would have allowed more time to re-configure the airplane, establish a positive rate of climb, and clear the trees near the end of the runway. However, the late go-around placed the airplane in close proximity to the trees, from which the pilot subsequently failed to maintain lateral clearance.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's delayed decision to conduct a go-around following an unstabilized landing approach and his subsequent failure to maintain clearance from trees near the end of the runway.