NTSB Identification: LAX96FA244.
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Accident occurred Sunday, June 16, 1996 in CARMEL, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Cessna 152, registration: N6198P
Injuries: 2 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 newly certificated private pilot and passenger departed for a 1.5 hour night flight over the standard tourist sights of San Francisco Bay. This was the third night flight for the pilot. The pilot requested from ATC a VFR clearance to do the 'standard bay tour,' which is a term recognized by the TRACON to mean that the pilot will overfly the standard tourists sights in the bay, then go south on the Pacific coast to Half Moon Bay, and return to the San Jose area across the coastal mountains. Radar data and ATC transcripts disclosed that the flight proceeded north along the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge, then turned south along the peninsula's Pacific coast. During the flight, the pilot requested a descent to 1,300 feet in order to stay below the stratus clouds. Radar service was terminated 5 miles north of Half Moon Bay as the aircraft went below the floor of the TRACON's radar coverage at 1,000 feet msl. At the time, the pilot stated that he had the Half Moon Bay airport in sight. The aircraft never returned to San Jose, was reported missing on 6/18, and was not located by a search. On 7/18, the wreckage was found in a heavily forested coastal mountain canyon south of Carmel at 1,750 feet msl. The accident site is 85 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and 15 miles south of the well lit Monterey peninsula. The vicinity of the accident site is sparsely populated with few ground reference lights. The aircraft collided with redwood trees in a level flight attitude. The aircraft hobbs meter showed 2.5 elapsed hours since departure.

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

The pilot becoming lost and disoriented during a night VFR flight in marginal weather conditions. Factors in the accident were: the pilot's lack of night flying experience, his failure to obtain a preflight weather briefing, low ceilings, and his failure to reverse course to known clear weather conditions when he first encountered the low ceilings.

Full narrative available

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