NTSB Identification: LAX97FA177.
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Accident occurred Sunday, May 11, 1997 in TRUCKEE, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/21/1998
Aircraft: Beech A36TC, registration: N6174N
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.

Four witnesses observed the aircraft taxi to the takeoff end of runway 28 and delay for what they thought was sufficient time to accomplish an engine and flight control checkout. During takeoff, the aircraft was observed to liftoff at the midfield point on the 7,000 foot runway and begin a shallow climb. Near the departure end of the runway, at an estimated altitude of 100 to 150 feet agl, witnesses observed the aircraft enter a turn to the left and begin to rapidly lose altitude. The aircraft continued to lose altitude throughout the turn until it impacted the ground. Postcrash investigation did not disclose any preexisting flight control, fuel, or engine system malfunctions, nor did toxicology results of the pilot indicate impairment. The flight departure was to the west (at dusk) toward a good visual horizon left by the setting sun. However, as the aircraft turned left, the forward visual horizon became less discernible due to darkness and lack of ground references, such as lights, which were minimal. At the time of takeoff, the density altitude was approximately 7,800 feet msl.

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

failure of the pilot to maintain altitude and clearance above the terrain, while turning (for an unknown reason) back toward the airport after takeoff. Factors relating to the accident were: the environmental conditions (light conditions at dusk and high density altitude) and lack of visual cues, while turning toward darker conditions; and spatial disorientation of the pilot.

Full narrative available

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