NTSB Identification: ATL04FA093.
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Accident occurred Monday, April 12, 2004 in North Augusta, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2005
Aircraft: Cessna 182S, registration: N364ME
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 flight departed on an IFR flight plan, did not proceed on its northwest course as directed, and did not maintain a consistent heading or altitude. The flight continued in a southwest direction, and the pilot elected to land the airplane. An air traffic controller provided altitude and heading assignments for a surveillance approach, and the pilot did not maintain the assigned headings and altitudes. The controller stated to the pilot the low altitude alert indicated 600 feet, and he instructed the pilot to climb. A witness on the ground saw the airplane flying erratically beneath the clouds at treetop height, then it dipped right then left and nosed down into trees and the ground. Examination of the airframe, engine, and components revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunction. A review of the pilot's log book revealed he logged 13.9 hours actual instrument time and 102.4 hours simulated instrument time. A witness at the departure airport stated the pilot checked the weather, and he overheard the pilot "talking about flying south to avoid rain, and then heading west from there." A review of WSR-88D Doppler Weather Radar Level III images revealed an area of precipitation was approximately 10 miles west of the departure airport and extended approximately 20 miles from north to south; the location of the accident site corresponded with the southeast edge of the precipitation area. An instrument-rated pilot who was monitoring the air traffic control frequencies as the accident flight was being vectored for the approach at Augusta Regional at Bush Field stated he heard the pilot state on the radio he was trying to fly through holes in the clouds.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent and subsequent in-flight collision with trees and the ground.

Full narrative available

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