The non-instrument-rated private pilot obtained a computerized weather briefing about nine hours before he departed on a night cross-country flight in a Piper PA28-181.
At that time, neither ice nor low visibility conditions were forecast along his intended flight route. He did not obtain any additional weather information before takeoff or while en route.
Weather conditions at the time of departure were marginal visual meteorological conditions, and instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) were forecast along the route of flight. The weather conditions were also conducive to the accumulation of structural icing.
The pilot reported that, about two hours into the flight, the airplane entered IMC.
He stated he looked out at the wing and saw that “frost” had started to build up. The airplane was unable to maintain altitude, so he added power and focused on maintaining level flight at a safe airspeed as the plane continued to descend until it hit trees and the ground near Rock Lake, N.D., seriously injuring three people.
The airplane came to rest on its left side in an ice-covered field and sustained substantial damage to both wings, all three landing gear, and the right horizontal stabilizer.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident as the non-instrument-rated pilot’s failure to obtain weather briefings immediately before and during the flight and his continued flight into icing conditions, which resulted in the airplane’s loss of performance and the subsequent controlled descent into trees and terrain.
NTSB Identification: CEN14LA074
This November 2013 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.