NTSB Identification: CHI97FA283.
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Accident occurred Sunday, September 07, 1997 in CRUMP, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/10/1999
Aircraft: Cessna 177B, registration: N34142
Injuries: 1 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 non-instrument rated private pilot was advised by the FAA Flight Service Station (FSS) specialist that '...there have been IFR ceilings and visibilities through [your] route [of flight].' The specialist told the pilot that the ceiling about 15 miles south of the accident site was varying between 300 and 1,300-feet above the ground. The specialist told the pilot that conditions should start to improve within an hour to an hour-and-a-half after their conversation. The pilot said she'd call back in '...a half hour or so.' There was no record of the return telephone call by the pilot. About 2-hours later, the pilot contacted approach control and reported the airplane was level at 2,500-feet above mean sea level (msl). About 12 minutes later the pilot asked the controller if she could climb to 5,500- feet msl. The controller suggested she climb the airplane to 6,500-feet msl due to her northwesterly heading. The pilot advised the controller she would climb the airplane to 4,500-feet msl. Another pilot reported (PIREP) instrument meteorological conditions at 5,000-feet msl to the controller. About 4-minutes after the PIREP the pilot of the accident airplane requested a climb to 6,500-feet msl. The controller approved the climb. About a minute later the controller reported hearing a distress call from an unknown source, 'Help me. Help me.' Witnesses reported seeing the airplane exit the clouds in a steep, pitched down attitude. They reported the airplane's right wing disintegrated as it banked to the left. The airplane was destroyed during an in-flight breakup and collision with trees and the ground. No anomalies were found with the airframe, control system or engine that would have prevented flight.

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

Continued flight by the non-instrument rated pilot into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and her failure to maintain control of the airplane, due to spatial disorientation. Related factors were the low ceiling, and the pilot's lack of instrument flight capabilities.

Full narrative available

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