NTSB Identification: LAX96FA115.
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Accident occurred Monday, February 19, 1996 in JULIAN, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/25/1996
Aircraft: Cessna 172N, registration: N738ED
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 flight was operating in visual conditions on an instrument flight plan at night. The pilot informed ATC that he was having difficulty maintaining his assigned altitude in downdrafts as his course converged on the lee side of the mountain ridge line. As he approached the VORTAC, located on a peak on the ridge line, the downdraft intensity increased and he was unable to maintain the en route MEA and the aircraft descended into an undercast cloud layer. The pilot requested vectors out of the downdraft but the aircraft impacted the face of the ridge 300 feet below the crest. A pilot following in another aircraft reported that conditions were clear and visibility unrestricted over lower terrain away from the ridge.

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

the pilot's delay in requesting assistance to avoid high terrain. Factors were: the downdrafts, mountainous terrain, and the pilot's improper in-flight planning.

Full narrative available

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