NTSB Identification: MIA08FA001.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, October 03, 2007 in Walthourville, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/28/2008
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N96HA
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 non-instrument rated pilot landed at an intermediate airport before departing to his destination airport in night marginal VFR flight conditions. Prior to departure a passenger called a person at their destination and told them they were aware of the weather, and would arrive in about 2 hours. The pilot received an initial weather briefing before departing on his initial leg of the flight. The briefer encouraged the pilot to obtain an updated weather briefing due to changing weather conditions for both of his planned flight legs. There is no record that the pilot obtained an updated weather briefing. The pilot departed on the accident flight and was in cruise flight at 3,500 feet, using flight following services from approach control. As he neared the airport the controller informed the pilot that the airport was at his 12 o'clock position, 5 miles, and flight following was terminated. The pilot reported the airport was in sight, and initiated a right descending turn instead of continuing direct to the airport. There was no other radio communication with the pilot. The weather observation for the airport had overcast clouds at 2, 200 feet, broken clouds at 1,000 feet, scattered clouds at 500 feet, and few clouds at 200 feet. Review of radar data revealed the airplane made several descending turns, with the last radar contact at 300 feet. The airplane collided with trees about 1 mile from the airport. Because of the clouds that had moved into the area, the pilot likely could not distinguish ground cues that would have helped him determine the airplane's attitude. Without an instrument rating, the pilot was unable to use his flight instruments to help him successfully orient and land the airplane. No anomalies were noted with the airframe, flight controls, flight instruments, engine assembly and accessories.

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

The non-instrument rated pilot's loss of control at night in marginal night VFR operations due to spatial disorientation. A factor in the accident was the pilot's improper decision to continue the flight.

Full narrative available

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