VFR into IMC ends in flames

Aircraft: Piper Tri-Pacer Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Verlot, Wash. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot had approximately 1,200 hours, but did not have an instrument rating. The weather was VFR when he took off on the 198-mile flight.

There was no record of him obtaining an official weather briefing. Weather along the intended route of flight varied between VFR and IFR conditions.

Weather satellite imagery from about five minutes before the time of the accident depicted an extensive area of low clouds. An area forecast for the day of the accident included a warning that the mountains would remain mostly obscured during the morning hours.

The Piper crashed and burned in steep terrain about 200 feet below a ridge line at an elevation of about 4,150 feet MSL.

An on-scene examination of the wreckage was not conducted due to terrain conditions and the wreckage was not recovered.

Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to continue visual flight into clouds and his failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering in an area of reduced visibility, low clouds, and mountain obscuration.

NTSB Identification: WPR11FA319

This July 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. says

    I agree with Don. The PA22 Tripacer’s performance (150) wasn’t all that bad. Four standard weight passengers (no baggage of course) and about 200 lbs of fuel could get to a destination of possibly 200 miles away with about an hour of fuel reserve.

  2. RudyH says

    …and add to this, we see the underpowered Tri-Pacer as a single occupant aircraft (for your safety) paper weight, which was the late Don Kershner’s statements after he flew with Piper Sr. in one of these birds….personal experience was that performance was sluggish with more than pilot/pax aboard, less other factors, ie. density, winds, etc…..I’m just sayin’ what I experienced…..

      • RudyH says

        Many general aviation were deemed underpowered by their users, this one could merely get you by…the late Kershner, a respected, competent test pilot, is not here to elaborate on his experience…..

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