The Cessna 150 departed on the local night flight in instrument flight rules conditions with 7 miles visibility and overcast clouds at 300 feet above ground level (agl).
Radar data showed it departed the runway, made one flight around the traffic pattern, and landed six minutes later.
It departed again to the west, did not remain in the traffic pattern, and reached an altitude of 740 feet agl. It made a left turn, which tightened as it descended about 1,900 feet per minute.
The plane hit a field near Watkins, Colo., and bounced one time before it came to rest upright.
An onboard recording device (GoPro) was found near the wreckage and the files were recovered.
Based on the available information, it is likely that the GoPro files were recorded on May 30 and May 31, 2014, with the final GoPro file recorded during the six-minute flight in the traffic pattern. The accident flight was not recorded.
The GoPro recordings revealed that the pilot and various passengers were taking selfies with their cell phones and, during the night flight, using the camera’s flash function during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern.
Based on the wreckage distribution, which was consistent with a high-speed impact, and the degraded visual reference conditions, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of the airplane.
The evidence is consistent with an aerodynamic stall and subsequent spin into terrain.
Based on the evidence of cell phone use during low-altitude maneuvering, including the flight immediately before the accident, it is likely that cell phone use distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control.
A review of the pilot’s logbooks did not show that he met the currency requirements for flight in instrument meteorological conditions or night flight with passengers.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s loss of control and subsequent aerodynamic stall due to spatial disorientation in night instrument meteorological conditions.
Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude.
NTSB Identification: CEN14FA265
This May 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.