VFR pilot attempts flight in IMC

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: 1 Minor. Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The non-instrument-rated pilot received a preflight weather briefing and decided to delay the flight because instrument meteorological conditions were forecast for his route of flight until 1200. The briefer stated that the ceiling at the pilot’s destination airport would probably be 2,000 feet overcast at best later in the day.

At 1600, the pilot departed without obtaining another weather briefing. He obtained flight following during the course of the flight. The pilot reported that while en route he was going to stop for fuel, however, the weather at the intended fuel stop was below VFR, so he continued. Upon reaching his destination he discovered that the weather was IMC, so he diverted to a nearby airport, where he requested emergency assistance to find the nearest airport with VFR conditions. ATC complied, but the pilot determined that he did not have enough fuel to get there.

The pilot, who had just four hours of instrument flight time, told the controller that he had practiced instrument landing system (ILS) approaches during a flight review, so the controller gave the pilot vectors and a frequency for an ILS approach. He attempted to fly the glideslope, but he became confused as to whether he should climb or descend in order to center the glideslope needle. The airplane crashed two miles east of the airport and sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and wings.

Probable cause: The pilot’s continued flight into instrument meteorological conditions and his failure to maintain a proper glidepath during the approach. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of instrument proficiency.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: CEN10CA100

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