NTSB Identification: ANC02FA025.
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Accident occurred Saturday, March 23, 2002 in MANOKOTAK, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/08/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-235, registration: N1220R
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.

The commercial certificated pilot telephoned an FAA Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and obtained a weather briefing for a flight to a remote airport, located about 58 miles from the departure airport. The briefing included marginal weather conditions at the departure airport, but improved conditions at the destination. An ARMET had been issued for mountain obscurations in the areas between the departure and destination airports. The pilot ended his weather briefing by filing a VFR flight plan. Just before departure, the AFSS specialist advised the pilot that he had received a pilot report for the area between the departure and destination airports. The pilot report included occasional visibilities 3 to 5 miles and occasional visibilities down to zero. The reporting pilot stated he followed the treeline into an intermediate airport (near the eventual crash site), and visibility and ceilings were low in the mountainous areas along the route. The accident pilot acknowledged the report and then departed. About 2 1/2 hours later, the flight was reported overdue, and an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal was received in an area about 18 miles west-southwest of the departure airport. The flight never reached the destination airport. Low visibility and blowing snow prevented searchers from reaching the scene until the following day. The airplane wreckage was located in an area on snow-covered hill, about 1,300 feet msl. A postaccident examination of the airplane did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions.

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

The pilot's continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, and subsequent collision with terrain during cruise flight. Factors in the accident were low ceilings, snow, and mountainous snow-covered terrain.

Full narrative available

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