NTSB Identification: NYC99LA089.
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Accident occurred Monday, April 12, 1999 in STIEFLER CORNER, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/22/2000
Aircraft: American AA-5, registration: N8764J
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Prior to departed the pilot was distracted, and forgot to initialize his GPS. The GPS was initialized during climb out causing the pilot to doubt its accuracy. While operating over a valley between partially obscured mountains, the airplane encountered turbulence. Weather at the time was 3,000 feet overcast with no restrictions to visibility. With the airplane less then 500 feet from the base of the clouds, the pilot focused his attention inside the cockpit to tune radio's and confirm his positions using a map. During this period, the pilot let the airplane climb into the overcast. 'I was not paying attention and I was close to the base of the clouds.' The airplane entered the clouds and the severity of the turbulence increased. The pilot initiated a climb, and started a left turn to proceed back to the south to regain VMC, but during the turn, and approximately 3,200 feet msl, the airplane struck a pine tree about 6 feet below its top. The pilot continued the climbing left turn, set the transponder to 7700, and transmitted a 'May Day.' About 5 minutes later, the pilot regained VMC, and landed the airplane at without further incident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot diverting his attention inside the cockpit, and allowing the airplane to enter instrument meteorological conditions, resulting in an in-flight collision with a tree.

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