Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Mountain Home, Idaho. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The non-instrument-rated pilot was on a VFR cross-country flight over mountainous terrain. Weather radar for the area at the time of the flight showed rain/snow showers.
There was an AIRMET in the area for mountain obscuration and the reported freezing level was about 7,500 feet. The cloud cover was moving from west to east and had tops about 22,000 to 23,000 feet MSL.
Radar data indicated that until a few minutes before the accident, the pilot maintained a westerly course toward the destination. During the last two minutes of the flight, the plane turned left to an east heading, then immediately turned back to a west/northwest heading.
The last radar return showed the airplane at an altitude of 7,600 feet MSL about 0.27 mile from the accident site.
The airplane crashed in terrain at an elevation of about 7,400 feet. The wreckage was consumed by fire. The pilot had been en route about three hours and was about 60 nautical miles from his destination when the accident occurred.
When rescue personnel arrived at the scene several hours later, they found 8 to 10 inches of snow on the ground. The airplane’s flightpath and the weather data are consistent with the flight encountering snow showers and possibly reduced visibility in the vicinity of the accident site. The airplane’s flight track suggests that the pilot initially turned back when he encountered the deteriorating weather but decided to proceed toward his destination when the collision with mountainous terrain occurred.
Probable cause: The pilot’s continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into mountainous terrain.
NTSB Identification: WPR12FA255
This June 2012 accident report is are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.