NTSB Identification: LAX91FA399.
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 46307.
Accident occurred Friday, September 20, 1991 in CUPERTINO, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/22/1993
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N8272Y
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 229-HOUR INSTRUMENT RATED PRIVATE PILOT DEPARTED BAKERSFIELD FOR A FLIGHT HOME DURING BRIGHT NIGHTIME VFR CONDITIONS. APPROACHING HIS DESTINATION AIRPORT, SAN CARLOS, THE PILOT CONTACTED NAS MOFFETT AND RECEIVED PERMISSION TO TRANSIT ITS AIRSPACE. THE PILOT WAS TOLD TO REPORT OVER THE AIRPORT. AS THE PILOT APPROACHED THE AIRPORT HE LIKELY ENCOUNTERED A FORECAST OVERCAST LAYER OF CLOUDS HAVING BASES AT 1,000 FEET. THE PILOT MADE A 60 TO 70 DEGREE CHANGE OF COURSE AWAY FROM NAS MOFFETT AND PROBABLY ATTEMPTED TO FLY BENEATH THE CLOUDS WHILE OVER THE DENSELY POPULATED AND ILLUMINATED AREAS OF THE CITY. THE PILOT ENTERED THE BASE OF THE CLOUDS, CONTINUED FLYING UNTIL ENTERING A MOUNTAINOUS AREA AND LOST VISUAL REFERENCE TO THE CITY. SECONDS BEFORE IMPACT THE PILOT REQUESTED THE FREQUENCY FOR A NEARBY RADAR FACILITY. THE PILOT WAS FAMILIAR WITH THE AREA HAVING RECENTLY LEARNED TO FLY IN THE VICINITY.

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

THE PILOT'S FAILURE TO MAINTAIN THE PROPER ALTITUDE, HIS IMPROPER INFLIGHT DECISION TO ATTEMPT FLIGHT BELOW THE BASE OF AN OVERCAST LAYER OF CLOUDS TOWARD RISING MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN AND THE FLIGHT'S INADVERTENT ENTRY INTO INSTRUMENT METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS. FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTED TO THE ACCIDENT WERE THE PILOT'S MISJUDGED WEATHER EVALUATION AND HIS IMPROPER VFR PROCEDURES.

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