NTSB Identification: SEA06LA029.
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Accident occurred Friday, December 16, 2005 in Butte, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/29/2006
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N4350F
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

When the pilot, who was not instrument rated, departed his point of origin, the area forecast for his destination was indicating the possibility of marginal VFR and locally IFR conditions due to fog, snow showers, and low clouds. He did not make use of FAA weather updating services while en route, and when he arrived in the area near his destination, it was already dark, and the weather at the airport had deteriorated to one-half mile visibility, freezing fog, moderate snow, and a ceiling of 800 feet broken. As he maneuvered toward the airport through mountainous/hilly terrain, he inadvertently entered IFR conditions, and then reversed course in order to return to VFR conditions. During his attempt to maneuver through the area of a mountain pass, the aircraft collided with trees on a steep snow-covered slope.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from the terrain during low-level maneuvering at night. Factors included the pilot’s improper in-flight decision to continue into an area that was forecasted to possibly contain snow, fog, and low ceilings. Additional factors included his failure to obtain a weather update while en route, a dark night, mountainous terrain, trees, snow showers, fog, and the pilot’s inadvertent flight into instrument flight rules conditions while on a visual flight rules flight.

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