NTSB Identification: LAX08LA253
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 01, 2008 in Cliffdell, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/28/2009
Aircraft: LONG Lancair ES, registration: N45EL
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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

During the instrument-flight-rules flight at 11,000 feet mean sea level, the pilot's last transmission to air traffic control confirmed his altimeter setting. Shortly thereafter, radar data indicated that the airplane started a descending right-hand turn. The final radar return was at 9,700 feet msl. The airplane wreckage was located about 1 mile west of the final radar return, at a terrain elevation of 3,830 feet. The debris field was consistent with an in-flight breakup, with airplane wreckage distributed over a distance of 0.5 miles. A study of the meteorology in the vicinity at the time of the accident indicated that a broken to overcast ceiling existed between 5,000 to 6,000 feet msl and extended up to 14,000 feet msl. Satellite imagery depicted cloud top temperatures of -1 to -3 degrees C between 11,000 and 12,000 feet msl. The location of the last radar return was immediately downwind of Mt. Rainier and the sounding wind profile indicated favorable conditions for mountain wave formation. Digital photos of Mt. Rainier taken a few minutes before the accident were recovered from a camera onboard the airplane. The images depict a clear view of clouds surrounding Mt. Rainier and that the airplane was operating immediately above a broken-to-overcast cloud layer, in visual meteorological conditions. The radar track combined with weather radar imagery and satellite imagery indicated that the airplane was in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) at the time it entered the descending right turn and dropped below the radar floor. Flight performance data recovered from cockpit instrumentation indicate that 5 minutes prior to the accident the airplane experienced continuous turbulence ranging from 0.77 to 1.5 vertical g's, consistent with a mountain wave encounter. Upon entering IMC conditions, the airplane began a right turn that developed into a spiral descent. During the last few seconds of flight the airplane was oriented 88.6 degrees nose down, 113 degrees angle of bank, and 290 knots. Upon exiting the bottom of the cloud layer, at 6,135 msl, the airplane experienced a rapid onset of g's that exceeded the strength of the airplane. The sudden onset of g-load is constant with the pilot's attempt to recover from the rapid descent and unusual attitude.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control while in cruise flight due to spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident was turbulence and clouds.

Full narrative available

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