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N3836T accident description

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Tail numberN3836T
Accident dateDecember 24, 1994
Aircraft typePiper PA-28R-180
LocationSearchlight, NV
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On December 24, 1994, at 1245 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-28R-180, N3836T, collided with mountainous terrain 1 mile northeast of Searchlight, Nevada, following an encounter with instrument meteorological conditions. The aircraft was operated by the pilot and was on a personal cross-country flight. Instrument meteorological conditions, consisting of rain showers and visibilities near zero in clouds, prevailed at the accident site. The pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing in which VFR flight was not recommended, and no flight plan was filed. The aircraft was destroyed in the collision sequence and the certificated commercial pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated from Boulder City, Nevada, at 1220 on the day of the accident with a destination of Brackett Field, La Verne, California.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records at the Reno, Nevada, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) revealed that the pilot telephoned the facility at 1116 on the day of the accident and reportedly requested an abbreviated weather briefing for a flight from Boulder City to Brackett. According to transcripts of the recorded weather briefing, the pilot was advised that VFR flight was not recommended due to low ceilings, rain showers, restricted visibilities and forecast icing conditions along his projected route of flight. After the weather briefing, the pilot telephoned an associate in the Los Angeles basin and said he would be leaving shortly and would try to fly south along Highway 95 to Interstate 40, then west to the Los Angeles basin. The pilot reportedly told the associate that he had to stay below 5,000 msl due to the freezing level.

The aircraft was reported missing by concerned relatives and associates about 1800 hours when it failed to arrive at Brackett Field. About 2040 hours, a resident of Searchlight turned on a radio scanner and began receiving a very loud ELT signal. Officers from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department Search and Rescue Unit responded to the area and began searching for the source of the signal. The effort was severely hampered by near zero visibility in fog and rain; however, the aircraft wreckage was located at 2255 hours.

Highway 95 runs south from Boulder City to a point where it intersects Interstate Highway 40 at a point about 40 miles south of Searchlight, Nevada. The town of Searchlight is located in a pass in the Eldorado Mountains at the highest point along the highway between Boulder City and Interstate 40. At the estimated time of the accident, ground witnesses in Searchlight (including the resident Las Vegas Metro police officer) reported that the visibility was near zero in clouds and rain showers.

The accident site is located about 1 mile north-northeast of Searchlight and approximately 1/2 mile east of Highway 95. At an elevation of 4,200 feet msl, the site is 138 feet below the top of the mountain. The search and rescue personnel, who were accompanied by an FAA airworthiness inspector, reported that all of the aircraft was accounted for in the wreckage distribution path and that it appeared to have struck a rock outcropping in near-level flight. The inspector reported that his examination did not reveal any evidence of a preimpact mechanical or system malfunction. A heavy fuel odor was present at the site. The propeller sustained extensive leading edge damage.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The aircraft maintenance records were not recovered and the investigation was unable to determine the inspection or maintenance history of the aircraft.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest official weather reporting station to the accident site is the Laughlin-Bullhead City airport, which is located 26 miles southeast and is 3,500 feet lower in elevation. About the time of the accident the station was reporting in part: "sky partially obscured estimated ceiling eight hundred overcast, visibility two and one half in light drizzle and fog."

A transcript of the pilot's telephone weather briefing is attached to this report. In summary, the pilot was advised that his destination was forecast to have variable ceilings between 400 and 2,000 feet with visibilities from 1 to 5 miles in fog and rain showers. The Las Vegas area was reporting ceilings of 1,200 feet broken with visibilities of 3 miles in drizzle and fog. Pilot reports indicated that tops in the Las Vegas area were 12,000 feet, with tops in the Los Angeles basin about 9,000 feet. The freezing level was forecast to be 8,000 feet.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed by the Las Vegas Henderson County Medical Examiner's Office, with specimens retained for toxicological examination. The results of the tests were negative for alcohol and all screened drug substances.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.