Piper PA-31T1, Graham, Texas, Nov 12, 2001–The NTSB determined the probable cause was the pilot’s failure to discontinue the approach after encountering IMC, resulting in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing factors were the dark night condition, low ceilings and reduced visibility.
At 9:44 p.m. the pilot of Piper N6134A contacted ATC and requested VFR flight following to his destination, Graham Municipal Airport (E15). N6134A was on the final leg of a four-leg trip that had begun earlier that day. At 10:20 p.m. radar data confirms that N6134A began a slow, steady, straight-line descent toward E15. The final radar return occurred 37 minutes later at an altitude of 3,000 feet, eight miles southeast of the airport. Radar coverage is not available below 3,000 feet in that area.
Two minutes after the final radar return, the pilot canceled VFR flight following and reported he was two miles out. There was no further communication from the airplane. According to the NTSB report, the pilot did not request or receive updated weather from ATC during the flight.
Several witnesses said there was dense fog, and that they heard an airplane flying low before the sound of the crash. The reported weather at the time of the accident was a temperature/dew point spread within two degrees, visibility between three and four miles in fog, and a ceiling decreasing from 600 feet broken to 400 feet overcast. At the time of the accident, the pilot’s duty day exceeded 12 hours.
Examination of the airframe revealed no pre-crash anomalies and that the gear was extended and the flaps were retracted. Examination of both engines revealed evidence of power at the time of impact.