The private pilot had logged 212 hours, including 40 in the Piper Arrow. Two witnesses reported seeing an airplane matching the description of the Piper Arrow flying in the area of the departure airport at very low altitudes about 90 minutes before the accident near Norfolk, Neb.
One witness described the flight profile as similar to “crop-duster type operations, with multiple low-altitude passes.”
Another witness reported that the airplane took off from the airport and climbed to about 1,000 feet and then made a gradual eastbound descent to a low altitude before going out of sight.
The airplane crashed about three miles east of the airport after hitting a powerline that was 20 feet above ground.
Investigators determined the impact tore the vertical stabilizer from the airplane. A parallel set of high-tension power lines with large support poles was located about 1/2 mile east of the impacted power line. Investigators speculated that the pilot did not see the power line prior to impact.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s decision to fly at a low altitude and his subsequent failure to see and avoid power lines.
NTSB Identification: CEN13FA241
This April 2013 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.