NTSB Identification: NYC04FA092.
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Accident occurred Sunday, March 21, 2004 in Harlan, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/03/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-32R-301, registration: N8173U
Injuries: 6 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.

Prior to departing on a night visual flight rules flight, the non-instrument rated pilot telephoned a flight service station and received a standard weather briefing. The briefing included information about cloud cover along portions of the route. Specifically, the cloud cover was described as solid broken to overcast with bases between 3,000 to 4,000 feet msl, and tops at 6,000 feet. The flight proceeded uneventfully through the Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI) airspace, before it impact terrain, about 40 miles northwest of TRI. At the time of the accident, visual meteorological conditions prevailed at TRI. However, snowfall was reported in the mountainous area near the accident site. The wreckage was located at an elevation of 3,050 feet. Review of radar data revealed that the airplane was cruising in a northwesterly direction, at 4,500 feet msl. The last recorded radar return was approximately 6 miles southeast of the accident site.

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

The pilot's improper decision to continue VFR flight into IMC conditions and his failure to maintain terrain clearance, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Factors were night, snow and a low ceiling.

Full narrative available

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