This September 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: Piper Cherokee 6 Injuries: 5 Fatal. Location: Tulsa, Okla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The non-instrument-rated private pilot obtained a standard weather briefing for a cross-country flight. At the time of the briefing, the ceiling was 600 feet overcast with four miles visibility. He was advised that a VFR flight was not recommended. Approximately four hours later, he radioed ground control for taxi and a VFR clearance. The controller informed the pilot that the airport was in IFR conditions. He then requested and received an IFR clearance.
He departed and had to be reminded by the local and departure controllers to make several course and altitude changes. He acknowledged the changes but took no action. He also was warned of antennas near his position.
Review of radar data revealed the pilot’s altitude varied from 1,100 feet MSL to 1,600 feet MSL. The last radar target was at 1,200 feet MSL in a left descending turn, although the pilot had been instructed to climb to 4,000 feet. The airplane hit a guy wire on a 600-foot radio transmission tower at a terrain elevation of 860 feet MSL.
The pilot’s descending turn when he was supposed to be climbing is indicative of spatial disorientation.
The post-accident examination of the airframe, flight controls, engine assembly, and accessories revealed no anomalies. The altimeter, transponder, and transponder automatic altitude reporting system test was current. The gyroscopic instruments were destroyed and could not be examined.
Probable cause: The non-instrument-rated pilot’s decision to attempt flight in instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation and an in-flight collision with a radio tower guy wire.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: CEN09FA562