This January 2008 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 58. Location: Cleveland, Ohio. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot, hired to do a repositioning flight, held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and had logged about 18,600 hours, including 350 in the same make and model as the accident airplane.
He departed at night from an airport on the shore of Lake Erie. The airplane gained altitude then made a northerly right turn over the lake. The airplane was observed descending in a right hand turn and subsequently hitting the lake.
An examination of the recovered wreckage revealed no pre-impact anomalies, and an engine monitor recorded sensor readings consistent with both engines being at a high power until the recorded data stopped.
The pilot had a history of back pain and had been regularly using a potentially sedating muscle relaxant, which could cause impairment. During the autopsy it was discovered that the pilot had heart disease and that may have increased his risk of sudden cardiac death. He was also at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea, which commonly causes fatigue and cognitive impairment; however, the investigation could not conclusively identify that the pilot was impaired. The maneuvering of the aircraft and lack of outside visual references soon after takeoff made the situation conducive to spatial disorientation.
Probable cause: The pilot experienced spatial disorientation during the initial climb, causing him to lose control of the airplane.
For more information: NTSB.gov