This May 2010 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 Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Livermore, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The flight departed in VFR conditions. The private pilot, age 75, had 983 flight hours, with 751 hours in the Cherokee. The passenger, the pilot’s husband, was also a rated pilot with a current medical, however, family members indicated that he no longer flew as pilot-in-command. There was no evidence the pilot obtained a weather briefing prior to departure.
However, the pilot requested and received flight following. She was authorized to fly at an altitude of the pilot’s discretion. The plot showed a flight track from the northeast to the southwest at about 3,000 feet. To reach the destination airport, the airplane would have crossed over an area of hilly terrain that rose to about 2,300 feet MSL. When the track reached the hilly terrain, the radar targets showed a descent to 2,600 feet and a turn to the south-southeast. The last radar target was at 2,799 feet. The airplane hit a hillside.
An analysis conducted by an NTSB meteorology specialist determined that precipitation passed through the area of the accident site near the time of the accident. In addition, a witness who heard the crash stated that there was low fog in the area.
Radar data showed that the airplane flew in a straight-line pattern from the northeast to the southwest between its departure and destination and then turned to the southwest when approaching an area of higher terrain. Based on witness information, it is likely that the weather conditions were poor in this area and the pilot was attempting to maneuver the airplane to improved weather conditions at lower elevations on the other side of the higher terrain.
Probable cause: The pilot’s continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a collision with obstacles and terrain.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10FA234
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