Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The private instrument-rated pilot had logged approximately 388 hours, including 21 hours of actual instrument experience. He was practicing instrument approaches at the time of the crash.
Prior to takeoff he advised an air traffic controller that he would like to conduct three approaches, starting with a VOR approach. The ceiling at the airport at the time of the accident was 600 feet MSL. The minimum descent altitude for the approach was 560 feet MSL. The controller offered the pilot the option of landing or executing a low approach at the completion of the approach. The pilot did not report to the air traffic controller the actual altitude of the base of the overcast layer. He elected to execute the low approach and was issued a frequency change, which he acknowledged.
During the missed approach, the pilot was then directed to proceed direct to the VOR, hold northeast of the VOR, to maintain 3,000 feet MSL, and to advise when he was ready to commence the next approach. The pilot then transmitted to the controller that he had gotten himself “a little out of whack” and that he was “just trying to straighten it out.” Review of radar data revealed that, during this transmission, the airplane had begun to turn right and continued turning right for about 150° before radar contact was lost. The airplane crashed into a tree, a travel trailer, and a pickup truck, fatally injuring the pilot and one occupant of the trailer and seriously injuring the other occupant of the trailer.
The environmental conditions that existed during the flight and the pilot’s actions and responses indicate that he likely experienced spatial disorientation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s loss of control during a missed approach due to spatial disorientation.
NTSB Identification: ERA11FA118