The non-instrument-rated pilot planned to conduct a cross-country flight. Before departure on the second leg of the flight, he obtained a weather briefing, which noted areas of instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions along his route of flight, including his destination airport.
During the briefing, the pilot indicated that his vehicle and work was at his destination.
The briefer and pilot discussed flying visual flight rules (VFR) over the cloud layer and possible alternate destination airports. The briefer suggested maintaining VFR flight and making an intermediary stop to again check the weather. The pilot elected to fly direct to his destination.
During the flight, he flew above the cloud layer and received VFR flight-following from ATC. The controller advised him that his preferred destination airport was currently under IFR conditions, but another airport was reporting VFR.
He elected to continue to the alternate destination airport. He notified the controller he did not have visual contact with the ground and continued his descent.
Shortly thereafter, the controller lost radar and radio communication with the pilot.
About the time of the accident, a person in the area reported the weather conditions as “clouds on the ground,” with low ceilings, and freezing fog and added that the visibility had changed from about 6 miles to less than ¼ mile in seconds.
The Cessna 172’s wreckage was found about eight miles from the airport near Wayne, Nebraska. The pilot died in the crash.
Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operations. A review of the pilot’s logbook revealed he had a total of about 111 flight hours.
The accident is consistent with controlled flight into terrain in instrument meteorological conditions as the pilot continued the descent without the ground in sight.
Probable cause: The pilot’s improper decision to continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a collision with terrain.
NTSB Identification: CEN16FA073
This January 2016 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.