On January 6, 2004, about 2100 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA-28R-180 single engine airplane, N3820T, encountered a ditch while taxiing for takeoff at California City Airport (L17), California City, California. The airplane, owned by Inland Flight Training Center, and rented by the pilot, was operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight was intended to depart L17, with a planned destination of McClellan-Palomar Airport (QRC), Carlsbad, California. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed.

During a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC), the pilot reported he was attempting to taxi to runway 24. He stated that it was a dark night and he was relying on the landing light to help guide him down a taxiway parallel to the runway; the airport was not equipped with taxiway edge lighting. While taxiing, the landing light suddenly turned off and he was unable to see his outside surroundings. The pilot inadvertently taxied off the left side of the taxiway, where the airplane encountered a ditch located in the dirt median. The right main gear collapsed and the right wing was damaged.

The pilot stated that the airplane did not have any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the exception of the landing light.

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