Poor decision making kills four

Aircraft: Cirrus SR20. Injuries: 4 Fatal. Location: Crystal Lake, Illinois. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had logged about 207 hours, including 114 in the Cirrus, did not have an instrument rating. He contacted the tower controller at the intended destination airport and inquired about landing. The controller informed him that the airport was currently under IFR conditions.

About 30 seconds later, the pilot informed the controller that he had inadvertently flown over the airport. The controller ultimately cleared the flight to land, however, the pilot decided not to land, informing the controller that he did not want to get delayed at the airport due to the weather.

The pilot subsequently told the controller that the flight was “in and out of the clouds.” After asking the pilot if he was IFR qualified and learning that he was not, the controller transferred the flight to the local radar-equipped approach control facility for further assistance.

That controller advised the pilot of several airports in the vicinity that were under VFR. The pilot initially told the controller that he would divert to one of those airports, then told the controller that he did not want to “mess with the weather” and did not want to “get stuck in here,” and declined to proceed to the recommended airport.

Radar data showed that, shortly after the pilot’s last radio transmission, the airplane entered a gentle right turn. About 90 seconds later, the right turn tightened abruptly, consistent with the airplane entering a steep spiral.

The last 19 seconds of radar data depicted the airplane entering a climb of about 2,500 feet per minute followed by an approximate 3,600 fpm descent.

Witnesses reported hearing an airplane overhead, but they were not able to see it due to the cloud cover. The witnesses then saw the airplane come out of the clouds in a steep, nose-down attitude before it hit the ground.

Based on reported weather conditions in the vicinity of the accident site, the flight encountered instrument meteorological conditions.

A post-accident examination of the airplane did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a pre-impact failure or malfunction.

Probable cause: The non-instrument-rated pilot’s decision to continue flight in instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation and loss of control of the airplane.

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA083

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.


  1. Mooney says

    How about two hours of dual instruction biannually, to include thirty minutes of actual IFR. May have prevented this and other accidents. This would be far more effective than a biannual medical which has proven to do nothing for GA safety. May have prevented this travesty.

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