Aircraft: Cessna 182. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Lake Havasu, Ariz. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The non-instrument-rated pilot was flying two friends home after a football game. He had flown the same route at night on four previous occasions, the most recent of which was two weeks before the accident. On both occasion the skies were clear and visibility unlimited.
The game went into overtime, so the flight home was later than planned and after dark. The pilot had obtained a weather briefing earlier that morning and was aware that a storm was due to arrive in the area about the time the return flight took place.
At the time of the accident, VFR conditions existed at all area airports, however, it was raining and clouds were present at the pilot’s intended cruise altitude during portions of the accident flight.
According to GPS data, the flight appeared to progress normally until about halfway along the planned route when the airplane suddenly descended about 1,000 feet, presumably to avoid clouds. A short time later, the plane began a series of altitude and airspeed oscillations, which ultimately resulted in a rapidly descending turn into the ground.
The debris field length and orientation of the crash site were consistent with a loss of airplane control, with the airplane hitting the ground inverted and at high speed.
According to weather data, on the night of the accident, the moon was obscured by clouds, and therefore would have provided no visual reference. In addition, most of the flight occurred over uninhabited desert terrain, so limited ground references would have been available.
Probable cause: The pilot’s continued flight into cloudy conditions at night, which resulted in a loss of airplane control due to spatial disorientation.
NTSB Identification: WPR12FA031
This November 2011 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.