NTSB Identification: SEA97FA043.
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Accident occurred Sunday, January 05, 1997 in FORT SMITH, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-28R, registration: N3347Q
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.

Although the aircraft initially tracked within the lateral boundaries of a Victor airway during the dark night VFR flight from Billings, Montana, to Gillette, Wyoming, the pilot later veered off course and entered mountainous/hilly terrain. While in cruise flight, the aircraft impacted densely forested rising terrain at 7,800 feet MSL in a near-wings-level attitude.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from terrain. Factors include the pilot inadvertently becoming lost/disoriented, the dark night (minimum ambient light), and mountainous/hilly terrain.

Full narrative available

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