Aircraft: Cessna 182. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Stanley, Idaho. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot, who did not have an instrument rating, had logged 640 hours, including 520 in the 182. On the afternoon of the accident, he checked the weather, then took off. His passengers said the pilot received several in-flight weather updates and deviated from his intended course to avoid thunderstorms.
He called a pilot-rated friend and asked him to call Flight Service to get a weather briefing for the return flight. The friend advised the pilot of thunderstorms and reduced visibility due to smoke along the route. The pilot suggested that he would be able to see and fly around the thunderstorms.
The friend reminded him that he might not be able to see the smoke and clouds at night, and suggested that he stay overnight and come home the next day. He also suggested the pilot call Flight Watch and get an update on the weather. The pilot stated that he was going to go ahead and take off, but that he would return to the departure airport or another en route airport if he ran into any weather.
About 45 minutes after takeoff the pilot encountered an area of precipitation. Radar data indicates that he turned left, then right, then entered another steep left turn, then descended near vertically into the ground at an elevation of about 6,600 feet. Infrared satellite imagery revealed that the area around the accident site was under a solid cloud cover, and the cloud tops in the area around the time of the accident were about 21,000 feet.
The post-accident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any pre-impact malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control due to spatial disorientation while executing a turn to reverse his course in dark night and low-visibility conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to initiate the flight into an area of known low visibility.
NTSB Identification: WPR11FA448
This September 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it isintended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.