NTSB Identification: IAD96FA057.
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Accident occurred Saturday, April 06, 1996 in BARKHAMSTED, CT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Cessna 172, registration: N6234E
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot/owner had been invited to fly and have dinner with two other pilots. He was hesitant to fly because of a nonfunctioning artificial horizon and a landing light problem. Witnesses stated that the pilot was encouraged by a CFI-rated passenger who wanted to go along but did not have room in the other airplanes. The flight to the airport in daylight went without incident. The other pilots stated that nothing was mentioned at dinner about problems with the airplane. The three pilots coordinated their night departure in order that the fastest of the three airplanes took off first, followed in succession by the two slower airplanes. The pilot/owner of the Cessna 172, with the CFI-rated passenger seated in front and with his wife in a rear seat, took off as the third airplane. There was approximately 5 to 10 miles between airplanes. The three pilots were talking amongst each other and the lead pilot announced that he had encountered instrument weather conditions and was going to fly an instrument approach. The first pilot told the other pilots to deviate their routes to the south in order to remain VFR. The second pilot deviated to the south and radioed to the third airplane. The CFI in the third airplane answered and stated that they would deviate to the south, but they had lost their artificial horizon and were having problems. The second pilot recommended that they switch to approach control in order to get assistance. The CFI's voice was recorded on the approach controller's frequency. The CFI stated that he was having problems and had lost his artificial horizon. Within minutes of initial contact, the airplane disappeared off the radar scope. The airplane wreckage was located the next morning.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

the CFI pilot/passenger's poor judgment which led to spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control of the airplane. Factors involved in this accident were the night marginal visual flight conditions and continuing flight with a known nonfunctioning artificial horizon.

Full narrative available

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