Aircraft: Cessna 350 Corvalis. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Salisbury, N.C. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: Before the airplane continued on a cross-country flight, a lineman at the airport spoke to the pilot, who did not have an instrument rating, and mentioned the marginal nature of the weather.
The pilot responded that he was going to stay below 1,900 feet and that he should be fine. The lineman recalled looking at the AWOS and noted it was reporting 1,800-foot ceilings and 10 miles visibility locally. When the aircraft took off, the weather was VFR in light rain.
Witnesses reported that the airplane’s departure was normal. The airplane was not captured on radar, and the pilot was not in radio contact with air traffic control.
Witnesses near the accident site said they heard the airplane flying overhead but did not see it due to heavy fog. One witness reported that shortly after hearing the aircraft overhead, he heard a loud splash in a nearby lake and, as he turned toward the lake, he saw a large spray of water. Shortly thereafter, a large amount of debris was observed in the water. About 30 minutes elapsed between the time the airplane took off and when it hit the lake.
The airplane was recovered from the lake and exhibited severe fragmentation, consistent with a steep, high-speed descent and impact.
The post-accident examination revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. Investigators speculated the pilot encountered instrument meteorological conditions. The steep, high-speed impact is consistent with an uncontrolled descent due to spatial disorientation.
Probable cause: The non-instrument-rated pilot’s decision to continue flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation and a loss of control.
NTSB Identification: ERA12FA205
This March 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.