This October 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.
Location: Oak Hills, Calif.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was in cruise flight in dark night instrument meteorological conditions. He had logged 690 hours, including three hours in the last 30 days. A biennial flight review was completed Sept. 15, 2007. He had an instrument certificate but was not instrument current.
The pilot radioed air traffic control that he was at 3,700 feet over the freeway interchange at the base of a mountain pass. He stated he could not climb because he had clouds above him. The airplane hit the mountain. The accident site was at the summit of a pass at an elevation of 4,196 feet MSL.
Ground scars and impact signatures were consistent with controlled flight into terrain. Investigators found no anomalies with the airframe or engine that would have precluded normal operation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s continued flight into instrument meteorological conditions and failure to maintain terrain clearance during cruise flight. Contributing to the accident were mountainous terrain, dark night, and fog.
For more information: NTSB.gov