This January 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: Cessna 172. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Holland, Mich. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was a 23-year-old foreign exchange student from Nairobi, Kenya. He held a U. S. commercial pilot certificate, for airplane single engine and multiengine land and an instrument ticket. He had logged 321.5 hours, including 1.8 hours of actual instrument conditions, 50.8 in simulated IFR conditions.
He rented the airplane for most of the day to give rides to friends. The weather was below VFR conditions. The pilot asked the lineman to fuel the airplane to capacity, then gave a tour of the facility to one of his passengers while waiting for the weather to improve. He told a lineman that he planned to takeoff and, if necessary, would file an IFR flight plan and return to the airport. However, there was no record of the pilot filing an instrument flight plan or receiving an IFR clearance before taking off and disappearing into the overcast.
Witnesses on the ground reported hearing an airplane make four passes over the airport. The sound became progressively louder but they could not see the airplane because of the low clouds. On the fifth pass, the airplane was seen approximately 50 feet above the ground and it barely cleared a stand of trees. The airplane crashed soon after in a snow-covered field.
Recorded ATC transcripts revealed that the pilot contacted approach control and told the controller that he was caught in heavy fog and wanted vectors back to the airport.
An examination of the airplane showed impact damage consistent with having descended to the ground in an uncontrolled spin.
Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to takeoff in known instrument meteorological conditions without instrument currency or recent instrument experience, which led to spatial disorientation resulting in an inadvertent spin.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: CEN10FA101