VFR into IMC kills two

Aircraft: Cessna Cardinal. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: North Vernon, Ind. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: Before departing on the accident flight, the 458-hour pilot, who did not have an instrument rating, obtained several weather briefings, learning that instrument meteorological conditions prevailed along his route of flight.

The pilot took off. When the airplane was at an altitude of 7,800 feet MSL, he requested VFR flight following.

A short time later the pilot acknowledged instructions to contact air route traffic control center. No further communications were received from the pilot.

Radar data showed the airplane in a gradual descent from 7,800 to 2,800 feet MSL, before radar contact was lost.

The post-accident review of weather and radar data indicated that the airplane descended into instrument meteorological conditions near the destination airport.

The wreckage distribution was consistent with a high-speed impact. Investigators determined that, given the adverse weather conditions present at the time of the accident, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of the airplane.

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

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA143

This January 2012 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. John Barsness says

    A VFR pilot flying at night, “no illumination from sun or moon” per the full NTSB report, in known IFR conditions through clouds with known icing conditions in a Cardinal.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    I have had my share of close calls, but none while willingly flying into the Perfect Storm for a crash scenario. Unfortunate for the surviving families. There is a time to get a hotel and wait for daylight, at the very minimum.

  2. AL Beckwith says

    As an FBO Operator with a computer scheduling system we put energy into verifying the current wx forecast for the period scheduled.
    If we have a concern; contact with the pilot is made.
    If our decision is “NO GO” the aircraft is not Released.

    There have been times when the customer does not agree and quits flying with us.

  3. vaughn price says

    The simplest action to take if you are stupid enough to stick your nose into IFR conditions, and have had no instrument training, is to not believe the seat of your pants, If you and your instruments are in disagreement, Fold your arms, Use only your feet on the pedals to keep the directional gyro on one heading, reduce power, lower flaps, re trim, and wait for the ground to appear, hopefully there will be a few hundred feet under the clouds. I had this experience when I was sixteen years old in a fairchild PT-19 open cockpit with no gyro instruments.Trying to climb through 2 thousand feet of coastal overcast, I almost made it, When I saw the Sun, it was below me. I chopped the throttle, lowered full flaps, folded my arms and waited until I saw the ground. flew back to the Airport, parked and waited for the overcast to break.

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