NTSB Identification: MIA98FA040.
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Accident occurred Sunday, November 30, 1997 in CROSS CITY, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/30/1998
Aircraft: Commander 114B, registration: N302RS
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 non-instrument rated pilot received 5 weather briefings before departing on a planned VFR flight to his destination airport. He was informed that VFR flight was not recommended, and was briefed on AIRMET information concerning marginal VFR and turbulence. The pilot departed, and while en route, he reported that he would attempt to remain below clouds at 3,500 feet msl. Later, he descended to 3,300 feet in an attempt to remain VFR. About 15 minutes later, the airplane descended slightly, then climbed to 3,700 feet. After that, the airplane entered a left descending 270 degree turn, then radar contact was lost. Subsequently, the airplane had an in-flight collision with a tree, water, and terrain. There was evidence that initial impact (with the tree) was in a left wing low, descending attitude. About 40 miles east, the Gainesvill, FL, weather was in part: 700 to 900 feet broken, 1,800 feet overcast, visibility 7 miles, wind from 240 degrees at 9 knots. No preimpact mechanical malfunction or failure of the engine or airframe was found. Review of the pilot's logbook revealed he had logged 1.1 hours of dual hooded flight and 1.7 hours of dual instrument flight.

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

VFR flight by the noninstrument-rated pilot into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and his failure to maintain control of the aircraft, due to spatial disorientation, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent and collision with the terrain (tree, ground & water). Related factors were: the adverse weather condition (low clouds/ceiling), and the pilot's lack of instrument experience.

Full narrative available

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