This January 2009 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: Cessna 172. Injuries: None. Location: Rockford, Ill. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: Prior to departure on a cross-country flight, the pilot obtained weather information for the planned route of flight using a commercial weather service. He learned that lower cloud ceilings and visibilities were not forecast to begin until after the flight was planned to reach the intended destination.
The pilot, who did not have an instrument rating, took off. Approximately 10 minutes into the flight the clouds began to lower and visibility deteriorated, so he decided to land at the nearest airport, which had a grass runway covered with snow. There was a 65-foot-wide plowed path in the runway that was bordered by snowdrifts. During landing, the airplane hit a low snow bank that was obscured by drifting snow.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inability to maintain directional control during the landing roll after hitting a low-lying snow bank that was obscured by drifting snow.
For more information: NTSB.gov