This October 2007 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.
Aircraft: Beech Baron.
Location: St.Croix, Va.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had logged 970 hours, did not have an instrument rating. He wanted to fly from St. Thomas to St. Croix to pick up a family member, but was concerned the weather would not be conducive to VFR flight. Early in the day he called a pilot friend who had an instrument rating and asked him to do the flight because of concerns about weather, but then called back a short time later to report that the visibility was such that he would do the flight himself.
It was night when the pilot departed St. Thomas and received VFR flight following. The controller asked if he was able to go through the weather. The pilot responded that he did not have any weather where he was although there was some lightning around him.
He told the controller that everything seemed “pretty good.” The flight was handed off to St. Croix tower. The tower controller asked the pilot what his position was, and the pilot responded, “Roger we are level at (unintelligible) oh boy we’re having some prob.” There were no more transmissions and the airplane disappeared from radar. The aircraft went down at sea, three miles from the destination.
The analysis of the weather revealed level five thunderstorms were present in vicinity of St. Croix. Investigators determined that the pilot probably encountered moderate-heavy rain between cloud layers in the minutes before the accident. After the accident the weather observation showed winds with gusts to 17 knots. Considering the weather data, and lack of ambient light, there would have been no visible horizon, forcing the pilot to control the airplane solely by referencing the flight instruments. The Airplane Flying Handbook states that “unless a pilot has many hours of training in instrument flight, flight in reduced visibility or at night when the horizon is not visible should be avoided.”
Probable cause: The non-instrument-rated pilot’s decision to continue VFR flight into instrument conditions, subsequently leading to a loss of control. The pilot’s lack of instrument experience, the weather conditions, and the night lighting conditions were factors.
For more information: NTSB.gov