NTSB Identification: ERA11FA118
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 18, 2011 in North Myrtle Beach, SC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/20/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N2100V
Injuries: 2 Fatal,1 Serious.

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.

On the day of the accident the pilot decided to practice instrument approaches. Prior to takeoff he advised an air traffic controller that he would like to conduct three approaches, starting with a very-high frequency omnidirectional radio range (VOR) approach. At the completion of the VOR approach, the controller offered the pilot the option of landing or executing a low approach. The pilot elected to execute the low approach and was issued a frequency change, which he acknowledged. During the missed approach, the pilot was then directed by the air traffic controller to proceed direct to the VOR, hold northeast of the VOR, to maintain 3,000 feet above mean sea level (msl), and to advise when he was ready to commence the instrument landing system (ILS) approach. The pilot then transmitted to the controller that he had gotten himself “a little out of whack” and that he was “just trying to straighten it out.” Review of radar data revealed that, at the time the pilot transmitted this information to the controller, the airplane had begun to turn right and continued turning right for about 150 degrees before radar contact was lost. The airplane then struck a tree, a travel trailer, and a pickup truck, fatally injuring the pilot and one occupant of the trailer and seriously injuring the other occupant of the trailer. A postaccident examination of the wreckage did not reveal any evidence of a preimpact failure or malfunction of the airplane, the flight instruments, or engine. Toxicological testing, postmortem examination, and review of medical records also did not reveal any evidence of pilot incapacitation.

At the time of the accident, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the local area. The ceiling at the airport at the time of the accident was at 600 feet msl, and the minimum descent altitude (MDA) for the VOR approach was 560 feet msl, a difference of only 40 feet. There were no witnesses who observed the airplane during the approach, and the pilot did not report to the air traffic controller the actual altitude of the base of the overcast layer. It is therefore uncertain as to whether the pilot ever entered visual conditions when the airplane approached the MDA prior to executing the missed approach procedure. The environmental conditions that existed during the flight and the pilot's actions and responses indicate that he likely experienced spatial disorientation.

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

The pilot's loss of airplane control during a missed approach due to spatial disorientation.

Full narrative available

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