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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 240868
Last updated: 28 September 2020
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Type:Piper PA-20-135 Pacer
Registration: N7323K
C/n / msn: 20-268
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Shenandoah National Park, east of Luray, VA -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Indian Head, MD (2W5)
Destination airport:
Investigating agency: NTSB
On August 31, 2020, about 1900 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-20-135 airplane, N7323K, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Luray, Virginia. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated by the pilot as a personal flight conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to a fixed-base operator (FBO) employee at Maryland Airport (2W5), Indian Head, Maryland who had discussions with the accident pilot, the pilot had arrived a day or two prior to the accident and stayed in the local area. The pilot was reportedly on a "tour of the 48" lower United States and several weeks ago he departed from California for the cross-country trip. On the afternoon of the accident, the pilot discussed with the FBO employee and other pilots at the airport, that he planned to depart for Eastern WV Regional Airport/Shepherd Field (MRB), Martinsburg, West Virginia.
The FBO employee reported that the pilot had been "waiting for the weather to clear" and he was looking at "storms" on his iPad along the route. The pilot was also reportedly concerned with the terrain and cloud ceilings along the route; his "biggest concern was [cloud] ceilings." The FBO employee reported that he and other pilots at the airport advised the pilot that he should not depart along the route, and when the FBO employee closed the FBO office and left the airport at 1800, the pilot had not departed.
According to Leidos Flight Service, there was no record that the pilot received a weather briefing on the day of the accident.
Review of preliminary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar track data revealed that the accident airplane departed runway 20 at 2W5 at 1819. Figure 1 shows the airplane's complete flight track overlaid on a visual flight rules sectional chart. The red line depicts the airplane's westbound flight track.

At 1858:00 the airplane was flying westbound at an altitude of 4,500 ft mean sea level (msl) over the Shenandoah National Park with mountainous terrain that ranged in elevation from about 3,000 to 4,000 ft. About 15 seconds later the airplane began a descending and rapidly accelerating, left spiral turn that became increasingly tighter in radius. At 1859:32 the final recorded position indicated the airplane was headed 276, at 3,400 ft msl, at 134 knots groundspeed, and was about nautical mile east of where the main wreckage came to rest. Figure 2 shows roughly the final three minutes of the flight track. The magenta line represents the flight track and the white arrows denote the direction of travel.

The wreckage was located by hikers who were hiking off the Buck Hollow Trail in the Shenandoah National Park about 1100, on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. The pilot was not in communication with air traffic control at the time of the accident and no emergency locator signal was received from the airplane.
According to FAA airman records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. He did not hold an instrument rating. The pilot was issued an FAA third-class medical certificate July 18, 2018 where he reported a total of 4 hours of flight time.
According to a FAA inspector who traveled to the accident site, the main wreckage was located at the bottom of a steep ravine in heavily wooded terrain and scattered in a southerly direction. The elevation of the accident site was 2,300 feet. The cockpit, wings, and fuselage were heavily fragmented and were not easily identifiable to their original structures. The propeller had separated from its hub and was found in the debris field; it displayed significant s-bending, leading edge gouging, and chordwise scratching. There was no evidence of fire. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer and the left and right elevators remained attached to the horizontal stabilizer. The wreckage was retained for further examination.




Revision history:

03-Sep-2020 00:16 Geno Added
03-Sep-2020 04:48 RobertMB Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Nature, Source, Narrative]
03-Sep-2020 14:06 RobertMB Updated [Registration, Cn, Total fatalities, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Damage, Narrative]
03-Sep-2020 20:09 Anon. Updated [Location]
03-Sep-2020 20:37 Captain Adam Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
06-Sep-2020 05:48 Anon. Updated [Date, Time, Source]
16-Sep-2020 08:30 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Departure airport, Source, Narrative, Accident report]
16-Sep-2020 08:32 ASN Update Bot Updated [Source, Narrative]
16-Sep-2020 08:37 harro Updated [Source, Narrative]

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