NTSB Identification: CHI00LA113.
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Accident occurred Saturday, April 15, 2000 in NEAR MUSKEGON, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/17/2001
Aircraft: Cessna 172S, registration: N560SP
Injuries: 2 Minor.

NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The accident airplane was the third airplane in a flight of four which were departing Muskegon on a Special VFR clearance to the south. The accident airplane departed and the non-instrument rated pilot became disoriented over Lake Michigan. The pilot was issued a heading by ATC to return to the airport. The pilot stated he was trying to keep the airplane level and was looking for VFR conditions when the airplane 'belly flopped' into the lake. The pilot and passenger exited the airplane and hung onto a floating tire until they were rescued by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard reported that due to the visibility of 1/4 mile with fog, they had to turn off the boat engine and listen for cries of help from the airplane occupants in order to find them. Both occupants of the airplane suffered minor injuries and hypothermia as a result of being in the 39 degree water for approximately 12 minutes prior to being rescued. Weather at Muskegon Airport at the time of the accident was 700 broken, 2 1/2 miles visibility with mist. The airplane sank in 60 foot deep water and was recovered after the accident. Inspection of the wreckage failed to reveal any mechanical failure/malfunction.

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

the pilot failed to maintain altitude after inadvertently flying to instrument meteorological conditions. Factors associated with the accident were the low ceilings and visibility, the pilot became disoriented after inadvertently flying into IMC, and the pilot was not instrument rated.

Full narrative available

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