The non-instrument-rated private pilot was conducting a VFR cross-country flight in an area of low clouds and fog layers near Russian Mission, Alaska, in his Cessna 210.
He hit the Yukon River, sustaining fatal injuries and destroying the airplane.
Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site. No record of the pilot receiving a preflight weather briefing could be found.
According to a pilot of an airplane that departed about 10 minutes ahead of the accident airplane on the same route of flight, widespread areas of low-level fog (between 400′ and 600′ above ground level [agl]) existed along the route. This pilot said he talked with the accident pilot about the fog layers. No further radio communications occurred between the pilots.
He added he tried to contact the accident pilot about 15 minutes after their conversation, but received no response.
After arriving at PABE and loading passengers, the interviewed pilot departed for a return flight to Kako. During that flight, he searched for the accident pilot’s airplane but could not locate the airplane.
After landing at Kako, the interviewed pilot notified the FAA Flight Service Station about the overdue airplane, and the FAA issued an alert notice. The accident airplane was eventually located submerged in the Yukon River about 10 miles southwest of Russian Mission.
Meteorological information indicated that the accident pilot would have encountered instrument meteorological conditions during the flight. Specifically, the area forecast that was valid at the time of the accident included an AIRMET for instrument conditions, a broken to overcast ceiling at 300′ with cloud tops at 10,000’t, and visibilities below 1 mile in mist.
Also, images from the FAA’s aviation weather camera facing the direction of the accident location indicated a low bank of clouds toward the accident site and along the intended flight route.
The pilot’s relatively low flight experience, lack of an instrument rating, and the lack of visual references due to fog and cloud layers created a situation conducive to the development of spatial disorientation. The airplane wreckage and impact information indicated that a loss of control occurred, which is consistent with the known effects of spatial disorientation.
Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation and a subsequent loss of control.
NTSB Identification: ANC18FA003
This October 2017 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.