NTSB Identification: LAX06FA289.
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Accident occurred Friday, September 08, 2006 in Santa Maria, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/30/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-23-160, registration: N3082P
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.

The pilot, who did not possess an instrument rating, departed the airport on a downwind departure toward the mountainous terrain that was between the departure and destination airports. The cloud bases were uneven about 1,400 feet, and a witness observed the airplane as it disappeared into the haze. Review of recorded radar data revealed a radar target appeared to match the airplane's departure time and initial departure path. This target performed multiple climbs and descents while turning left and right at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,000 feet. The last target was in a position that was approximately over the accident site at the time that the accident occurred. Investigators found no anomalies with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.

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

The non-instrument rated pilot's decision to continue flight into instrument meteorological conditions resulting in spatial disorientation and a loss of control.

Full narrative available

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