This December 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 Cherokee. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Helfin, Ala. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The student pilot, who had logged 26 hours, departed on a night cross-country flight in his recently purchased airplane to visit his girlfriend. The student had not received cross-country or instrument flight training, and did not hold the appropriate endorsements for the flight. Witnesses and recorded weather observations revealed the presence of heavy rain and high winds in the vicinity of the accident site and the student pilot’s flight instructor and a friend told him not to fly on the day of the accident due to the weather.
The airplane crashed about 35 miles east of the departure airport along a direct route to the destination airport. A lack of damage to surrounding trees and the symmetrical aft crushing of both wings indicated that the airplane hit the ground vertically, while in a stall/spin.
Toxicology testing and evidence found in the wreckage suggested that the pilot had likely taken at least twice the prescribed dose of stimulant medications in the 40 hours preceding the accident, and likely ingested alcohol around the time of the flight. The pilot had denied any medical conditions or medications in his application for a medical certificate less than two months before the accident.
Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during night, adverse weather conditions, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the student pilot’s decision to attempt a flight that he was not qualified for and his decision to ignore known adverse weather conditions. Also contributing was the student pilot’s impairment due to prescription medication and alcohol.
For more information: NTSB.gov; NTSB Identification: ERA10FA099