NTSB Identification: FTW97FA166.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, April 23, 1997 in PAGOSA SPRINGS, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/31/1998
Aircraft: Socata TB-20, registration: N20NK
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.

While on a cross-country flight, the pilot encountered deteriorating weather. He contacted a FSS and requested to change his VFR clearance to IFR. Due to his inability to climb to an IFR MEA in visual conditions and crossing traffic, the IFR request was not accepted. He informed the controller he thought he was 'picking up tail plane ice' and would have to descend to better weather (visibility) conditions and plan an alternate route. Later in the day, the pilot's wife reported that he had not arrived, and an ALNOT was issued. The aircraft was found 5 days later where it had impacted into a mountain at 11,100 feet msl, near the area where the pilot had made the last radio contact. Impact marks showed that the aircraft was in level flight when it crashed. The aircraft partially burned following impact. Weather in the area, at the time of the accident, was reported as low clouds, with the mountain tops obscured, rain, and snow. Due to weather, access to the site by investigators was not achieved until 8/5/97. The accident occurred on 4/23/97.

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

inadvertent flight by the pilot into known adverse weather conditions, and his failure to maintain altitude or clearance from terrain. Factors relating to the accident were: low ceiling, rain, snow, icing conditions, and mountainous terrain.

Full narrative available

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