NTSB Identification: LAX05FA184.
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Accident occurred Friday, May 20, 2005 in Caliente, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/29/2006
Aircraft: Bellanca 14-13-3, registration: N6511N
Injuries: 2 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 airplane impacted terrain while cruising in controlled flight (CFIT) after the pilot(s) reversed course upon encountering instrument meteorological conditions. Both of the pilots held commercial pilot certificates, but neither were instrument-rated. The flight was performed to relocate the airplane to the pilot-owner's home base airport. No witnesses to the accident were identified. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the departure airport beneath an overcast sky condition. Based on an evaluation of the weather conditions, the projected route between the departure and destination, and the impact heading of the airplane, and as the terrain elevation increased, the pilots most likely encountered less maneuvering room between the terrain and the overlying clouds, and they would have inadvertently entered instrument meteorological conditions. The pilots reversed course to a westerly direction and commenced flying back toward their departure airport. The underlying terrain was also obscured by clouds, and the airplane's clearance from the terrain was inadequate, resulting in a collision with mountainous terrain. A motorist, who held a private pilot certificate and was driving in a westerly direction near the accident site, reported that the roadway "was foggy" and his visibility was at most 1 mile. The motorist stated his elevation was about 3,000 feet mean sea level (msl). An examination of the accident site, elevation 2,380 feet msl, revealed the airplane impacted upsloping terrain while in a right bank, and with a near level pitch attitude. Thereafter, the airplane cart wheeled. The distance between the initial point of impact and the farthest component of wreckage was nearly 800 feet. No evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunction was found.

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

The pilot's inadvertent encounter with instrument meteorological conditions and failure to maintain adequate terrain clearance, which resulted in controlled flight into the terrain. Contributing factors were the pilots' delayed decision to reverse course, the low clouds which obscured the rising terrain.

Full narrative available

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