NTSB Identification: ERA10FA091
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, December 07, 2009 in Kissimmee, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/12/2011
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N5269X
Injuries: 4 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 non-instrument-rated pilot departed for a night cross-country flight while instrument meteorological conditions existed at the departure airport. The pilot requested and received from air traffic control a special visual flight rules (VFR) clearance. After departure, the airplane was observed on radar climbing to an altitude of 2,400 feet above mean sea level (msl). Approximately 1 minute prior to the last radar return, air traffic control cleared the accident flight "on course" and the clearance was acknowledged by the pilot. Subsequently, radar data indicated that the airplane began a 180-degree right turn and its altitude decreased from 2,400 feet msl to 0 feet msl in about 12 seconds. The last radar return was located in the immediate vicinity of the accident location.

The dark surface of the water in a relatively unlit area would have provided the pilot limited external visual reference and could have resulted in him becoming spatially disoriented or affected by a visual illusion. The pilot's logbook revealed that he had visited the departure airport several times prior to the accident. A postaccident examination of the airplane, structure, flight controls, engine, aircraft systems, and flight instruments revealed no preimpact mechanical malfunctions.

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

The pilot's decision to depart under special VFR flight at night when instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the departure airport and along the route of flight and his continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in his spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of aircraft control.

Full narrative available

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