This August 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 182. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Napa, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot, who held a commercial license with an instrument rating, had logged more than 1,080 hours, including 162 hours of simulated instrument experience, and 28.5 of actual instrument experience. He received an Instrument Competency Check several days prior to the accident. According to an instructor pilot who flew with the pilot, the pilot frequently flew with sole reference to the instruments.
At the time of the accident he was planning a night cross-country flight from his home airport. According to the instructor who had administered the pilot’s Instrument Proficiency Check, they thoroughly discussed taking off in instrument meteorological conditions at an uncontrolled airport and, specifically, the departure procedures the pilot was executing on the day of the accident.
The conditions at the airport were reported as low clouds and fog. A routine aviation weather report disclosed that during the time of the accident there was an overcast cloud layer at 600 feet AGL and 10 miles visibility. There was a full moon.
The pilot received an IFR clearance about 15 minutes prior to departure from runway 18R. The departure clearance dictated that the pilot was to continue straight on the runway heading of 180° until intercepting a VOR radial about six miles from the airport. Thereafter, he was to make a left turn to join the radial and follow it to the first intersection on the departure route which was about 10.25 miles south of the airport.
The airplane took off. Following departure, the plane made a left bank while gradually increasing its altitude to 1,000 feet MSL to an easterly heading. The flight plan was not activated. The last two radar returns show an altitude of 900 feet MSL and a slight change of direction back toward the south. The last radar return was located about a half mile north of the accident site. The airplane had been in flight for approximately 1.5 minutes total. Ground scar analysis, impact signatures, and wreckage fragmentation patterns indicated that the airplane hit the terrain in a near level attitude at high speed.
Probable cause: The instrument-rated pilot’s loss of situational awareness and failure to follow the prescribed instrument departure clearance/procedure, which resulted in an in-flight collision with the terrain.
For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification: WPR09FA385