NTSB Identification: LAX04CA309.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, September 01, 2004 in Willits, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/03/2004
Aircraft: Cessna 172S, registration: N897TW
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

While maneuvering to locate the runway during a dark, nighttime flight, the airplane descended until colliding with trees. As the pilot approached his home base airport, he attempted to activate the pilot controlled runway lights. However, he was unsuccessful. Thereafter, the pilot performed a low altitude pass over what he believed was runway 16/34 to ascertain if a portion of the runway's lights were operating. During the maneuver, the pilot failed to detect that the airplane was not aligned with the runway. Also, the pilot failed to maintain adequate altitude to avoid colliding with trees 1/8-mile west of the airport. Neither prior to taking off, nor at any time during the accident flight, did the pilot become aware that a Notice to Airman had been issued indicating that the airport's runway lights were "out of service."

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

the pilot's inadvertent descent and controlled flight into obstacles while maneuvering to land. Contributing factors were the dark, nighttime condition, which impaired the pilot's visual perceptions, and the pilot's failure to obtain a pertinent Notice to Airman regarding inoperative runway lights.

Full narrative available

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