The instrument-rated pilot received weather data via a computerized flight planning service on the morning of the accident. The briefing included a synopsis for upper Michigan that indicated overcast conditions at 3,000 feet with cloud tops at 12,000 feet, visibility of 3 to 5 miles with light snow showers and mist, and wind from the northwest gusting to 25 knots.
An airmen’s meteorological information was current for instrument flight rules conditions with ceilings below 1,000 feet and visibility below 3 miles with precipitation, mist, and blowing snow at the time of the accident.
Several witnesses reported hearing the Mooney M20R heading west, which was in the direction of the departure airport in Boyne City, Mich.
Another witness stated that, due to the snow, he could only see the airplane’s lights but that it appeared the airplane banked “hard,” pitched up and down, and accelerated as it descended.
The airplane hit terrain about one mile east of the airport in a heavily wooded valley. The airplane was substantially damaged from the impact and a post-impact fire. Both people on board were killed in the accident.
One witness reported whiteout conditions and several witnesses reported that it was snowing heavily at the time of the accident. Dark light and gusting wind conditions were also present at the time of the accident.
The pilot was likely trying to return to the airport after encountering dark night conditions and heavy snow showers and subsequently lost control of the airplane.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane as he attempted to return to the airport after encountering dark night conditions and heavy snow showers.
NTSB Identification: CEN14FA102
This January 2014 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.