NTSB Identification: LAX97FA027.
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Accident occurred Sunday, October 27, 1996 in INDIO HILLS, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-44-180, registration: N2157P
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 pilot was flight following with ATC when controllers noticed that the aircraft began an unannounced turn and subsequent rapid descent. Radar data showed the aircraft entering a decreasing radius turn with an increasing rate of descent until radar coverage was lost. Clouds near the accident site ranged from broken to overcast with possible icing conditions at the cruising altitude. The wings, horizontal stabilizer, and vertical stabilizer separated during the descent. An examination of the fractures found no evidence of preexisting cracking or damage. Witnesses near the crash site reported the night was very dark. The pilot had been instrument rated for several years, but there was no evidence that he was maintaining currency. The coroner reported finding clinical evidence of diabetes mellitus, a disqualifying medical condition.

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

the pilot's spatial disorientation which led to a loss of aircraft control, and exceeding the aircraft's structural design limits after the aircraft had entered a descending spiral. The pilot's lack of instrument flight currency and the dark night were factors in the accident.

Full narrative available

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