Saturday, March 19, 2022

Collision with Terrain (Non-CFIT): Piper PA-28-151 Warrior, N42764; accident occurred March 19, 2022 in Alpine, San Diego County, California

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Diego, California

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Alpine, California 
Accident Number: WPR22LA144
Date and Time: March 19, 2022, 15:30 Local
Registration: N42764
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-151 Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT) 
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, he entered a valley and descended to an altitude of about 300 to 500 ft above the ground. As the pilot began a climb to clear an upcoming ridgeline, he realized that the airplane would not clear the terrain despite making S-turns and adjusting to best rate of climb airspeed. Subsequently, he initiated an emergency landing and the airplane impacted terrain in a level attitude, which substantially damaged the left wing and underside of the airplane. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from rising terrain while operating in a canyon, which resulted in an impact with terrain


Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot
Aircraft Altitude - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot
Environmental issues Mountainous/hilly terrain - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT) (Defining event)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 22,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used: Lap only
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present:
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane single-engine
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 5, 2019
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: February 7, 2022
Flight Time: 134.4 hours (Total, all aircraft), 37 hours (Total, this make and model), 134.4 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 10.2 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 10.2 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Passenger Information

Age: 21, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Seat 
Occupied: Unknown
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): 
Second Pilot Present:
Instructor Rating(s): 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: 
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: UNK
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Passenger Information

Age: 21, Male
Airplane Rating(s):
Seat Occupied: Unknown
Other Aircraft Rating(s): 
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): 
Second Pilot Present:
Instructor Rating(s): 
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: UNK 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N42764
Model/Series: PA-28-151 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1974
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28-7415399
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: Certified
Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1
Airframe Total Time: 
Engine Manufacturer:
Engine Model/Series:
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power:
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: SEE, 388 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 18.2 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 16:00 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 56°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 280° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.98 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 17°C / 10°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: El Cajon, CA (SEE) 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Alpine, CA
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 16:08 Local
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 32.929204,-116.66529

RAMONA, California – Three adults were uninjured after a single-engine plane went down today about six miles east of El Capitan Reservoir in East County, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire. 

A witness called the sheriff’s department at 4:09 p.m. Saturday that a downed aircraft was possibly west of the Three Sisters Trailhad near Ramona.

Cal Fire told a KUSI reporter that the pilot and two passengers escaped the crash uninjured. The witness said they were with two of the occupants walking toward the road, said sheriff’s Lt. Joe Barry. He said a sheriff’s helicopter was on its way to the area to investigate the crash.

Cal Fire crews were also on their way to the crash site.

SAN DIEGO, California — A small aircraft went down approximately six miles east of the El Capitan Reservoir in East County, the San Diego County Sheriffs Department confirmed to CBS 8. 

The small plane was carrying three passengers who were all uninjured, CALFIRE said.

A witness called the sheriff's department at 4:09 p.m. on Saturday reporting that a downed aircraft was possibly west of the Three Sisters Trailhead near Ramona.

Authorities confirmed to CBS 8, CALFIRE was responding to a rescue near the trail and were able to fly over and locate the downed plane.

Crews hiked down to where the plane was located and began helping the passengers.

Officials are investigating after a plane went down in East County Saturday. 

According to the San Diego Sheriff's Department, the crash happened at Boulder Creek Rd. about six miles east of El Capitan Reservoir around 4:15 p.m. 

Cal Fire also responded to the scene.

According to Cal Fire PIO Thomas Shoots three adults were onboard the plane and are uninjured.

SDSO and Cal Fire are investigating what caused the plane to go down.

Authorities are investigating after a plane crashed in east San Diego County Saturday afternoon.

According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the crash was reported around 4:30 p.m. near the 12000 block of Boulder Creek Road near Ramona. 

Cal Fire is also responding to the scene.

At this time, the type of plane that crashed and the extent of any possible injuries are unknown.


  1. From the ADS-B track here:

    It appears they were maneuvering between 3-4,000 feet in the vicinity of Cuyamaca Peak (SD County's second highest peak at 6512 feet) and they likely got caught in a downdraft or were unable to out-turn and out-climb surrounding terrain. It appears they slowed down to around Vx and were climbing at between 500-700 ft/min right before impact, which is likely why they survived the crash into the brush. Still the occupants are VERY lucky!

    1. "The typical light airplane is designed to provide protection in crash landings that expose the occupants to nine times the acceleration of gravity (9G) in a forward direction. Assuming a uniform 9G deceleration, at 50 mph the required stopping distance is about 9.4 feet. While at 100 mph, the stopping distance is about 37.6 feet—about four times as great."

    2. The brush/trees would also soften the blows to the body....

  2. Mushing in on the low-height-vegetation of that upslope rising to meet them as speed petered out was a much better option than a stall and plummet impact from failing a turn back that is so often the case in these reports.

  3. The operator could have made sure not to let his passengers smoke dope while flying... how could you J????? how could you... I read your "report"... you are so full of crap.... the ADS-B report show s your climbs and decents... what were you 3 doing over there... really J??? yep!! we were ALL born yesterday...