The pilot had recently purchased the Piper PA 22-1 and planned to fly it to a friend’s private airport to show him the airplane.
The private airport was located about 27 nautical miles east of the departure airport.
A witness observed the pilot start the airplane’s engine, but he did not observe the airplane take off.
The airplane did not arrive at the destination, an alert notice was issued, and the wreckage was found the following day near Garden City, Texas, about 8 nautical miles southwest of the intended destination and about 6 nautical miles south of the direct route of flight.
Although radar coverage was available and showed other airplanes in the area using a transponder code of 1200, no radar data were found for the accident flight.
There were no known witnesses to the accident.
The accident site was located in an area of mostly flat terrain with mesquite trees and shrubs immediately adjacent to a caliche pit that was surrounded by large dirt piles on three sides and measured about 35′ from the bottom of the pit to the top of the dirt piles.
The airplane struck the top of the dirt pile on the east side of the pit, and the debris extended 100 yards to the east, indicating that the airplane was heading east at impact.
The damage to the airplane was consistent with impact at a high forward velocity in a relatively level attitude. The signatures observed on the propeller were consistent with the engine operating at a high power setting at the time of impact. The pilot died in the crash.
A review of weather information found no evidence of convective activity, a significant surface wind condition, or a low-level wind shear hazard in the accident area. The reported weather conditions at stations near the accident site included clear skies, visibility of 10 miles, and wind from the west at less than 20 knots.
Although the caliche pit was a whitish color that contrasted with the brownish color of the surrounding flat terrain, the dirt pile that the airplane struck was similar in color to the surrounding terrain. Due to this color similarity, it is possible that, while flying at low altitude, the pilot did not recognize that the dirt pile was higher than the surrounding flat terrain.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance with terrain during a low altitude flight.
NTSB Identification: CEN16FA087
This January 2016 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.