NTSB Identification: LAX94FA157.
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Accident occurred Thursday, March 10, 1994 in NAPA, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/07/1994
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-301T, registration: N3562C
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot and his passengers departed for an evening dinner flight to another town about 48 miles away. The pilot requested VFR advisories en route, but did not request MSAW monitoring. The initially selected cruise altitude was 2,500 feet msl. He requested a heading to his destination, which was provided by approach control. About 3 minutes later, he was told his destination airport was at 12 o'clock and 8 miles, which he acknowledged. About 1 minute later, radio and radar contact was lost and an ELT signal was received by the local center. According to radar data, during the last 6 minutes of flight the airplane descended from 1,800 feet msl to 1,300 feet with no altitude for the last five radar hits. The airplane collided with a power line on a ridge line at 1,300 feet msl, about 6 miles from the destination airport. The pilot had received an abbreviated weather briefing for the dark night flight. Witnesses reported that stratus clouds were obscuring the ridge line at the time of the accident.

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

the pilot's selection of an en route descent altitude profile inadequate to clear all terrain along his intended flight path, and, his inadvertent VFR flight into IMC conditions. Factors in the accident were the dark night lighting conditions and the obscured ridge line.

Full narrative available

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