NTSB Identification: CEN10FA316
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, June 13, 2010 in Umpire, AR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/06/2012
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28-181, registration: N6076H
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.

According to a witness, the non-instrument-rated pilot departed when the weather was overcast at 3,000 feet and the surrounding mountain ridges were obscured. An airport located about 32 miles north of the departure airport, in the direction of travel, was reporting slightly lower ceilings. The pilot requested winds aloft for 3,000 and 6,000 feet, stating, “I need to be at about fifty five hundred probably to be safe,” adding “there’s some three thousand foot tops of some...terrain there in places.” He was likely referring to a mountain range that he would have been approaching about the time of the accident. Thus, the pilot likely intended to climb above the altitude of the reported cloud base, and, therefore, he most likely did enter the clouds. No radar data was available for the flight, and there were no eyewitnesses to the accident; however, a witness reported hearing a low flying airplane followed by the sound of an impact. A postaccident examination revealed that the left wing spar had fractured in upward bending as a result of overload; the bottom cap failed in tension. The examination did not disclose any preimpact mechanical problems with the airplane. Federal Aviation Administration guidance indicates that if neither horizon nor surface references exist, the attitude of an airplane must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. Further, during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen; when this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating, which, coupled with the low visibility as he entered the clouds, would have made him vulnerable to spatial disorientation.

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

The pilot’s continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation.

Full narrative available

Index for Jun2010 | Index of months