NTSB Identification: DEN02FA030.
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Accident occurred Sunday, March 10, 2002 in Glenwood Sprngs, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/01/2003
Aircraft: Mooney M20C, registration: N1323D
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.

After visiting his girlfriend, the non-instrument rated private pilot took off in dark night visual meteorological conditions to return home. When he failed to arrive, a search was initiated and the wreckage was found 2 days later in deep snow in mountainous terrain. According to recorded radar data at two different sites, a target departed the airport and climbed to 13,900 feet msl and took up a direct heading toward what would have been the pilot's planned destination. Halfway there, the target made a wide circle to the left of approximately 450 degrees, followed immediately by a tight circle to the right of approximately 360 degrees. The difference in time and altitude between the last two radar "hits" 14 seconds and 3,000 feet, respectively, equates to a 12,857 foot per minute rate of descent.

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

the pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control due to spatial disorientation, resulting in a collision with terrain. Contributing factors were the pilot's lack of an instrument rating and the dark night conditions.

Full narrative available

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