NTSB Identification: LAX94FA056.
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Accident occurred Sunday, November 21, 1993 in JULIAN, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/1994
Aircraft: CESSNA 172M, registration: N5312R
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.

The pilot and his pilot-rated passenger departed for a night cross-country flight. They were receiving visual flight rules advisories and had been assigned a discrete transponder code. They were climbing to an altitude of 9,500 feet msl, and were at 9,100 feet msl when radio and radar contact were lost. The last recorded radio transmission from the pilot was, 'We're in a flat (blocked out), we're going to lose it dad.' A search was initiated, and the airplane and its occupants were found the next day. The cloud bases in the area were reported by other pilots to be about 7,100 feet msl, with tops about 13,000 feet. The light conditions were reported to be 'dark night' with little surface ambient light in the sparsely populated area. The pilot's logbook was examined, and no indication was found of the pilot having flown during the 90-day period preceding the accident. Neither the pilot nor the pilot-rated passenger had an instrument rating. Postaccident examination of the airplane did not reveal any preexisting deficiencies.

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

THE PILOT'S FAILURE TO MAINTAIN AIRCRAFT CONTROL. FACTORS IN THIS ACCIDENT WERE: 1) THE DARK NIGHT AND LACK OF AMBIENT LIGHT WHICH RESULTED IN THE PILOT INADVERTENTLY FLYING FROM VISUAL METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS INTO INSTRUMENT METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS; 2) THE PILOT'S LACK OF INSTRUMENT FLIGHT EXPERIENCE, AND 3) SPATIAL DISORIENTATION.

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