NTSB Identification: LAX03FA182.
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14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, June 06, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 4/16/2004
Aircraft: Beech A36TC, registration: N1856P
Injuries: 5 Fatal, 7 Serious.

During the en route climb-out, the airplane entered the base of an overcast cloud layer, and then descended out of the clouds in a spinning, steep nose down attitude that continued to impact with a 3-story apartment building. A post-impact fire destroyed the airplane. Earlier that day, the pilot received three weather briefings from the FSS. Each briefer indicated that AIRMETS were in effect for IFR conditions and mountain obscuration, and advised the pilot to call back after 1300 for updated weather. During the second briefing, the briefer stated that VFR flight was not recommended. On the last briefing, the briefer indicated that the weather conditions were marginal towards the east with at least 3 miles visibility. The pilot inquired if he could legally fly, to which the briefer replied that yes, he was legal to fly, but that the weather conditions were marginal. After takeoff, the pilot asked the controller if he knew if the weather was clearing towards the east. The controller stated that it was not clear towards the east. The pilot then said that he was going to fly towards the east, and find a break or hole in the clouds to "pop up through." Controllers received no further transmissions from the pilot on any frequency. Cloud bases in the area for a 12-hour period ranged from 2,200 feet to 3,100 feet overcast, with tops ranging from 3,800 feet to 4,000 feet agl. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating. The pilot and passengers had been at the airport for at least 8 hours waiting for weather conditions to clear. One passenger was going to be dropped off at Las Vegas, and the pilot and remaining two remaining passengers were going to continue to Sun Valley, Idaho. Post accident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical anomalies.

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

the pilot's in-flight loss of control due to spatial disorientation, and failure to maintain airspeed, which resulted in a stall/spin. Also causal was the pilot's disregard of the weather information provided and his attempt to continue VFR flight into IMC. A factor in the accident was the pilot's self-induced pressure to complete the flight.

Full narrative available

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