NTSB Identification: ANC98LA022.
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Accident occurred Sunday, February 22, 1998 in TYONEK, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/08/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-18, registration: N1379A
Injuries: 2 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot had departed from a remote off-airport area during a dark night. During the flight to the intended destination, a layer of clouds obscured the ground. The pilot continued in VFR on-top conditions and became lost. The pilot climbed to about 10,000 feet msl to remain above the clouds. The airplane was equipped with a turn and bank instrument, but did not have any instrument panel lighting. The airplane's radio was not functioning effectively to establish contact with an FAA facility. The pilot was using a flashlight to illuminate the instrument panel, but the bulb burned out. The passenger in the airplane contacted the Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) via a cellular telephone and requested assistance in getting down through the clouds and locating an airport. The pilot, passenger, and FAA air traffic controllers, worked together for about 1 hour in an attempt to assist the flight. About 3 hours after takeoff, the airplane's engine ran out of fuel, and the pilot began a descent through the clouds. The pilot reported he attempted to maintain control of the airplane, but experienced two or three uncontrolled spins. As the airplane neared the ground, the passenger established visual contact with the ground and yelled to the pilot. The pilot then pulled back on the control stick, and the airplane struck ground in an area of small hills. Rescue personnel located the airplane the following day. The pilot did not have an instrument rating. His pilot's certificate contained a limitation that prohibited night flying.

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

The pilot's continued VFR over-the-top operation, becoming lost/disoriented, his inadequate in-flight planning/decision making, and subsequent fuel exhaustion. Factors in the accident were the presence of a cloud layer below the pilot's selected altitude, the pilot's spatial disorientation, the pilot's lack of night flying experience, dark night conditions, and the lack of instrument panel illumination.

Full narrative available

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