Aircraft: Piper Lance. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Peru, W.Va. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot, who was not instrument rated, obtained a weather briefing earlier in the evening, and was informed that VFR flight was not recommended. He took off into the dark night.
Thirty minutes into the flight he obtained an in-flight weather briefing indicating that there was marginal VFR and IFR conditions along the intended route and at their destination.
About four minutes before the accident, the pilot advised air traffic control, “We are losing VFR, I need a deviation.”
The controller asked if the flight was IFR capable and if pilot wanted to file an IFR flight plan. The pilot reported “we are IFR capable,” but when asked if he wanted to file an IFR flight plan, the pilot declined, stating, in part, “I’m not even sure I’ve got the plates here.” Contact with the accident airplane was then lost.
The airplane collided with the top of tree, rolled inverted, then crashed. Radar data revealed the airplane made a series of erratic maneuvers including a 360° turn before entering a descent and hitting the ground at high speed. These maneuvers took place in the last few minutes of the flight and were consistent with spatial disorientation.
No IFR charts were found in the wreckage but investigators did find folded VFR charts and airport facility directories.
Probable cause: The non-instrument rated pilot’s improper decision to continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation and subsequent in-flight collision with mountainous terrain.
NTSB Identification: ERA12FA012
This October 2011 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.