This February 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Aircraft: Mooney M20J.
Location: Ranchita, Calif.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot intended to make a cross-country flight across a coastal mountain range on a moonless night.
Recorded radar data indicated that, after takeoff, the airplane climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet. As the flight neared the destination airport – and while still over mountainous terrain – the pilot initiated a descent. The wreckage was found the next day in mountainous terrain at an elevation of 4,100 feet MSL. Based on the wreckage, investigators determined that the Mooney hit the ground in a wings level attitude.
Investigators found no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunctions.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain terrain clearance during a cruise descent. The darkness and mountainous terrain were factors.
For more information: ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20070214X00192&key=1.