Before the flight, the pilot obtained weather information for an airport near the departure airport and for an airport about 275 miles south along his route of flight. He did not file a flight plan, did not receive any other services for the flight, and departed in night visual meteorological conditions.
According to GPS and air traffic control data, the Piper PA-30 was flying on a southwesterly heading before it turned right. It subsequently turned left and then right before it entered a descending left turn and hit terrain near Biglerville, Pa., killing both people on board the airplane.
Examinations of the airframe and engines revealed no pre-impact mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. Further, there was no evidence of a medical impairment that would have affected the pilot’s performance. A review of the his logbooks revealed no entries for night or instrument flight in the year before the accident.
A National Weather Service observation from about 15 miles southwest of the accident site showed rapidly changing conditions with a band of snow moving across the region at the time of the accident
In addition, the next observation showed a lowering ceiling that was overcast to broken from 3,200 to 2,800 feet above ground level; snow started falling about 26 minutes after the accident.
Considering the weather conditions around the time of the accident, it is likely the pilot inadvertently encountered instrument meteorological conditions in light snow with no visible surface lights and, as a result, had to transition to relying solely on the instruments.
Given these conditions, his limited instrument and night experience, and the pilot’s maneuvering, it is likely that he experienced spatial disorientation and subsequently entered a descending left turn and lost control of the airplane.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the non-instrument-rated pilot’s spatial disorientation after inadvertently encountering instrument meteorological conditions at night and his subsequent loss of airplane control.
NTSB Identification: ERA14FA077
This December 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.