This December 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: Piper Cherokee Six. Location: Warrens, Wis. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot had logged 456 hours, but did not have an instrument rating. He did not file a flight plan before departing. It was a dark night and the weather was just above minimums for visual flight rules and conditions near the airport were IFR. The pilot took off. Radar track data indicated that the plane flew a 131° magnetic heading at about 2,500 feet mean sea level from the departure airport. The radar track data indicated that the airplane was in a left, descending turn consistent with spatial disorientation prior to being lost from radar contact. The post-crash inspection of the airplane revealed no pre-existing anomalies.
Probable cause: The decision by the pilot to fly into known adverse weather, and the failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation.
For more information: NTSB.gov