NTSB Identification: LAX06LA068.
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Accident occurred Saturday, December 24, 2005 in Hopland, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/30/2007
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N3953R
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.

The non-instrument-rated private pilot flew the airplane during a dark, night, cross-country flight, in marginal visual to instrument meteorological conditions. The airplane impacted mountainous terrain at the base of a hill. During the accident flight, a witness observed the airplane flying low in foggy conditions. The witness described the weather as very foggy, with the clouds extending low into the valley, just above the airplane. The witness added that the aircraft did not seem to have any problems. The pilot elected to depart on the cross-country flight despite the marginal weather conditions and limited visibility. Examination of the damage sustained by the airplane revealed that it impacted terrain in a controlled manner. Post-accident examination of the wreckage revealed no anomalies that would have affected the controllability of the airplane.

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

The non-instrument rated pilot's failure to maintain clearance with terrain, which resulted in a controlled flight into terrain. Contributing factors were the dark night conditions and the low clouds.

Full narrative available

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