NTSB Identification: ERA09LA527
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 19, 2009 in Lowndesville, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/22/2010
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N5845A
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.

The non-instrument rated pilot was conducting a personal cross-country visual flight rules flight and had not obtained a weather briefing. Two witnesses heard the airplane make several passes over their location. One of the witnesses reported that the engine was "making a pop pop sound intermittently," then it sounded like a lot of engine power was applied. They both reported that they had observed the airplane descending out of the "very low" overcast cloud layer between 70 and 90 degrees nose down attitude, with the wings level on a path directly toward them. The airplane veered away from their location, and then impacted into a lake approximately 75 feet from their location. Prior to impacting the water, one of the witnesses reported that several control surfaces appeared to be moving in the correct direction. These witnesses also reported that there had been rain just prior to the accident, and the overcast cloud layer was approximately 100 to 200 feet above tree top level, or about 300 feet above ground level. Neither the aircraft maintenance logbooks nor the pilot's flight logbooks were located. Given the lack of an instrument rating and the transition from visual meteorological conditions to instrument meteorological conditions, the pilot most likely misinterpreted the acceleration of the airplane as the nose of the airplane pitching up, and applied forward elevator control to counter. Examination of the wreckage revealed no preimpact mechanical malfunctions.

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

The pilot's inadequate preflight planning and improper decision to continue flight into deteriorating weather conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation after entering instrument flight conditions.

Full narrative available

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