NTSB Identification: NYC97FA048.
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Accident occurred Saturday, January 25, 1997 in CONRAD, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/04/1998
Aircraft: Cessna 172F, registration: N8835U
Injuries: 1 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.

During a telephonic weather briefing from the Altoona Flight Service Station, the pilot stated he intended to fly VFR from State College, PA, to Elmira, NY. The briefer advised that '...VFR was not recommended...' due to mountain obscurations and 'quite strong' winds. A review of radar data revealed the airplane traveled in a northerly direction (at night) with several heading deviations as great as 270 degrees. The en route altitude varied from 3,200 to 4,100 feet. The radar track then depicted a descending right spiral from about 4,000 feet that terminated in the vicinity of the accident site. Subsequently, the airplane collided with trees and terrain along a 2,100 ridge, about 15 miles west of the intended course. Wreckage was scattered about 342 feet on a westerly heading. No preimpact mechanical failure was found that would have resulted in the accident. The pilot had logged about 111 hours total flight time with about 1 hour of instrument flight time.

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

VFR flight by the pilot into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and spatial disorientation of the pilot, which led to loss of aircraft control, an uncontrolled descent, and subsequent collision with wooded terrain. Factors relating to the accident were: darkness, adverse weather conditions, the pilot's lack of instrument experience, and the wooded, mountainous/hilly terrain.

Full narrative available

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