NTSB Identification: LAX05FA255.
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Accident occurred Monday, August 01, 2005 in San Luis Obispo, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/26/2007
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-151, registration: N4401X
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.

While on the crosswind leg during initial climb, the pilot cruised into upsloping terrain about 0.9 miles from the runway. The pilot's day began when he departed his residence about 0700. Thereafter, he commuted to work, which involved flying a borrowed airplane to a neighboring city. Upon completing work, the pilot was dropped off at the airport. The pilot intended either to fly home or to the location where his next day's work was to be performed. He was due to report to work the following morning at 0730. It was a dark night, and an overcast ceiling existed at 800 feet above the ground. No moon or stars were visible from the airport. A hill was located about 1 mile northeast of the airport. The pilot departed using runway 11, made a left crosswind turn, and impacted the hill while climbing in controlled flight. Fire department personnel responding to the accident site said that the clouds were nearly at ground level and that the forward (horizontal) visibility was between 1/4- and 1/2-mile. The pilot had received his private pilot certificate the preceding month, at a total flight time of 69.6 hours, including 3.5 hours at night.

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

The pilot's continued flight into instrument meteorological conditions, and his failure to maintain clearance from the rising hilly terrain. Contributing factors were the pilot's inexperience regarding flying during the dark, nighttime condition, and the low ceiling.

Full narrative available

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