April 04, 2004, Ukiah, Calif. / Piper PA-32R-301T


About two minutes after an 0808 Pacific time departure from the airport at Ukiah, Calif., the Piper Saratoga SP II collided with terrain. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed but no flight plan had been filed. An instrument-rated air ambulance helicopter pilot attempting to return to Ukiah heard a pilot on the Unicom frequency say he was in a Saratoga and preparing to depart Runway 33. The Saratoga pilot told him that there were no holes in the clouds, and that the 100-foot ceiling looked about right. A few minutes later, the air ambulance helicopter pilot heard the Saratoga pilot say that he was going to depart on Runway 15. The helicopter pilot asked the Saratoga pilot if he had an instrument clearance. The Saratoga pilot reported that he was departing VFR. The air ambulance pilot told him that he could not get into the airport visually, and then departed for a helipad about 10 miles away. The air ambulance pilot heard about an accident as soon as he landed.


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