This June 2009 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.
Aircraft: Piper Malibu Mirage. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: St. George, Utah. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: According to an electronic log in the airplane, the instrument-rated private pilot had logged 782 hours at the time of the accident. On Nov. 27-28, 2007, the electronic logbook recorded two flights where the pilot practiced instrument procedures with a CFI and logged 12 instrument approaches.
The airplane departed on a cross-country flight. Radar data indicated that the airplane achieved a cruise altitude of 9,700 feet MSL and a northeasterly course of 050° magnetic, which was a direct line to the pilot’s destination. About 11 minutes after takeoff, the airplane entered a 1,000 fpm descent. The airplane continued to descend at this rate until it hit terrain at an elevation of 4,734 feet.
Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane was still on its northeasterly course towards the destination at impact. Ground scars at the initial point of impact were consistent with the airplane being wings level in a slight nose-down pitch attitude. No mechanical anomalies with the airplane or engine were identified during the airplane wreckage examination. A post-impact fire destroyed all cockpit instrumentation, and no recorded or stored flight data could be recovered. Weather conditions at the time were clear, with light winds.
The pilot had some moderate heart disease that was noted during the autopsy. He also had a history of stress and insomnia, which was documented in his FAA medical records. Toxicology findings noted the use of a sedating and impairing over-the-counter medication (chlorpheniramine) that was taken at some undetermined time prior to the accident. The investigation could not conclusively determine whether the pilot’s conditions or medication use were related to the accident. The reason for the airplane’s descent to ground impact could not be determined.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance during descent for undetermined reasons.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB identification:WPR09FA320.