Night flight ends in crash

This July 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 Debonair. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Tolar, Texas. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was employed as a flight instructor and, according to his employer, had accumulated approximately 1,830 flight hours. He departed on a cross-country flight with two passengers on a dark, moonless night over a rural area.

Approximately 10 minutes after they took off, a witness on the ground saw the airplane in a descending spiral over a hay field, followed by a crash. The last 50 seconds of recorded GPS data and the witness’s description of the maneuvers before the crash were consistent with the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation, which resulted in a spiral from which he was unable to recover.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane while maneuvering at night over a rural area, due to spatial disorientation.

For more information: NTSB Identification: CEN10FA392



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