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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: WPR17FA052
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, January 13, 2017 in Port Orford, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/04/2018
Aircraft: PIPER PA 28-236, registration: N81839
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 79-year-old private pilot was making a local personal flight in his airplane when he reported over the aircraft emergency frequency that he was losing vision in one of his eyes. About the same time, a radar target using the emergency transponder squawk code was acquired traveling northbound along the coastline. The airplane wreckage was subsequently located on a beach close to the last radar target. The damage to the airplane was consistent with a high-speed, left wing-low impact due to a loss of control.

According to the pilot's son, the pilot had been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity and had a history of sudden vision loss, sometimes in just one eye but at other times in both eyes, which had been attributed to his chemical sensitivity. He had not reported the episodes of vision loss or the chemical sensitivity on any of his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) medical applications. His most recent FAA medical certificate had expired 5 years before the accident, and it had been 5 years since he had accomplished a flight review. The pilot continued to fly, and his flight instructor, who had given the pilot his last flight review and flew with him 1 year before the accident, reported a significant degradation in the pilot's flying skills.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's loss of vision during cruise flight, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's decision to fly with a known medical condition.