NTSB Identification: ATL07LA115.
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Accident occurred Friday, August 17, 2007 in Siassconset, MA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2007
Aircraft: Cirrus Design Corp. SR20, registration: N869CD
Injuries: 2 Serious.

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 non-instrument rated pilot was conducting a night VFR flight to his destination airport. As the pilot neared the airport, he initiated a descent and established radio contact with the control tower. The controller pointed out traffic and instructed the pilot to continue for runway 24. The pilot continued his descent and was informed by the controller that the airport was changing to IFR and instructed the pilot to contact approach control. A low layer of clouds had moved into the area. The pilot contacted the approach controller and asked if he could perform the ILS runway 24 approach. The controller started vectoring the pilot for a left downwind, and asked the pilot if he was instrument qualified and current. The pilot replied, "We are IFR qualified," even though he was not. The controller informed the pilot to turn left to a heading and the pilot responded by saying he was turning right The controller again instructed the pilot to turn to the left, expect the ILS runway 24 approach, and to advise that he had the current airport information. The pilot responded by saying he was turning right and that he would pick up the airport information. The controller informed the pilot that it was not a right turn, and informed the pilot he had turned in the wrong direction on the last turn and to turn to the left. The pilot replied that he was turning to the left to the assigned heading. The controller asked the pilot what his type of airplane was, and the pilot replied, "Cirrus I had to pull the parachute." The pilot stated in an interview with the NTSB that he was struggling to keep the airplane level; he was in instrument conditions, in a black hole without a visible horizon or ambient light, and that he became spatially disoriented and pulled the parachute. Advisory Circular 60-4A states in part, "The attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual references with the surface. If neither horizon nor surface references exist, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. Sight, supported by other senses, allows the pilot to maintain orientation. However; during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen. When this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation." Because of the clouds that had moved into the area, the pilot likely could not distinguish ground cues that would have helped him determine the airplanes attitude. Without an instrument rating, the pilot was unable to use his flight instruments to help him successfully orient and land the airplane. Had the pilot informed the controller that he was not instrument rated, the controller may have been able to instruct the pilot to climb to visual flight conditions and land at another VFR airport.

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

The non-instrument rated pilot's loss of control at night in instrument flight conditions due to spatial disorientation. A factor was the pilot's in-flight decision not to inform the controller that he was not instrument rated.

Full narrative available

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