NTSB Identification: LAX02FA059.
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Accident occurred Friday, January 04, 2002 in Petaluma, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/24/2002
Aircraft: Cessna 152, registration: N24223
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.

During low level cruise flight, within 2 minutes following takeoff, the airplane collided with terrain. The student pilot arrived at the airport during nighttime hours when the flight school was closed. He was not scheduled to fly that night and was not endorsed for night flight. He removed keys from the lockbox to an airplane of a type he had never before flown and for which he was not endorsed. He entered the airplane without a preflight inspection, started the engine with difficulty, and then proceeded to the runway and took off without pausing for any pretakeoff checks. The airplane was observed to takeoff into the clear night, turn, and fly into a mountainside about 2 miles distant. The pilot's flight instructor and the owner of the flight school both found the pilot's behavior on the night of the accident completely out of character for him. A local law enforcement official said the pilot was the subject of a criminal investigation and that a search warrant had been served on his home earlier the same day while the pilot was not home. The pilot returned home to find that entry to his home had been forced and records and a computer were seized. The local coroner ruled the death a suicide.

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

The pilot's intentional flight of the airplane into terrain in an act of suicide.

Full narrative available

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