NTSB Identification: LAX04FA177.
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Accident occurred Sunday, April 04, 2004 in Ukiah, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/28/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-32R-301T, registration: N4130D
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 non-instrument rated private pilot attempted to depart an airport in instrument meteorological conditions. Prior to departure, the pilot talked to another, airborne pilot in the area, and confirmed the airport's reported conditions of an overcast layer at 100 feet above ground level (agl). The accident pilot indicated to the other pilot that he intended to depart VFR. Several witnesses reported that they observed the airplane departing to the south. It then turned toward the west at low level and subsequently turned back to the east. They further noted that the engine sound remained constant, continuing until the sound of a loud crash. The airplane contacted vegetation just prior to colliding with the ground, and the debris path continued along a southerly heading. Investigators examined the extensively crushed and fragmented wreckage, and identified no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures. The pilot had logged about 7 hours of simulated instrument time.

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

The non-instrument rated pilot's flight intentional flight into instrument meteorological conditions during takeoff-initial climb, which resulted in spatial disorientation, a subsequent loss of aircraft control, and an uncontrolled descent into terrain. A factor in the accident was the pilot's lack of an instrument rating and a low ceiling.

Full narrative available

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