The pilot flew to a tower-controlled airport to practice simulated engine failure approaches and landings.
During departure following his fifth approach, he wanted to know what time it was and began looking for his phone, including reaching behind the seat to find it.
He told investigators that he must have been pulling back on the yoke while searching, and when he looked forward, the airplane was in a right yaw.
He reported he did not remember anything after that, but believed that the Piper PA-28 aerodynamically stalled and subsequently hit the ground near Fresno, California.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing, while the pilot sustained minor injuries.
The pilot reported no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s exceedance of the airplane’s critical angle of attack during departure due to being distracted by looking for his phone.
NTSB Identification: GAA17CA035
This October 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.