Spatial disorientation kills four

This February 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: Beech A36. Injuries: 4 Fatal. Location: Winslow, Ark. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The airplane was in VFR conditions between cloud layers when the 363-hour instrument-rated pilot received vectors for an instrument approach to the destination airport. The descent required descending through the clouds. There were reports of icing in the clouds.

The Pilot’s Operating Handbook and FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual indicated that flight in icing conditions is prohibited.

The pilot was cleared for the approach. He flew past the initial approach fix and through the approach course. The airplane turned right toward and again through the approach course, followed by an additional and larger heading correction to the left and through the approach course. The airplane then flew an increasingly erratic flight path until it disappeared from radar.

Investigators determined that the challenging visibility conditions and the airplane’s flight track were conducive to the onset of pilot spatial disorientation.

Probable cause: The pilot’s spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control of the airplane during flight in instrument meteorological and icing conditions.

For more information: NTSB Identification: CEN10FA114




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