NTSB Identification: LAX97FA032.
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Accident occurred Friday, November 01, 1996 in HALAWA, HI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/30/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-34-200, registration: N1701K
Injuries: 5 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 noninstrument-rated commercial pilot departed in VFR conditions at twilight. En route, the pilot encountered marginal VFR conditions. Radar data showed that the aircraft made a gradual left turn toward rising terrain, as it entered an area of poor weather. Subsequently, it flew into rising wooded terrain at an elevation of about 1,600 feet, near the top of a mountainous ridge. Witnesses in a sparsely inhabited rural area located about 3 miles from the accident site reported that the light condition was 'pitch black,' when the aircraft flew low over their location, and that instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed. 'Torrential' rains, which had just ended at their location, continued in the area where the aircraft impacted terrain. No preaccident mechanical malfunction of the aircraft was found. Another pilot, who had flown the aircraft recently, stated that the heading indicator would precess 30 degrees in 10 minutes. The pilot's flight instructor said that he (the pilot) was working toward an instrument rating, but was not yet qualified to fly by reference to instruments.

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

the pilot's inadvertent VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and his failure to maintain sufficient clearance and/or altitude from mountainous terrain. Factors related to the accident were: darkness, adverse weather conditions, and mountainous terrain.

Full narrative available

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