NTSB Identification: CEN12FA143
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, January 21, 2012 in North Vernon, IN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/13/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 177A, registration: N3435T
Injuries: 2 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 was conducting the accident flight under visual flight rules (VFR) without a flight plan in dark night conditions. Before the flight, the pilot obtained several weather briefings indicating that instrument meteorological conditions prevailed along his route of flight. Postaccident review of weather and radar data indicated that the airplane descended into instrument meteorological conditions near the destination airport. Based on the wreckage distribution, which was consistent with a high-speed impact, and the adverse weather conditions present at the time of the accident, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of the airplane. Federal Aviation Administration guidance indicated that spatial disorientation can occur when there is no natural horizon or surface reference, such as night flight in sparsely populated areas similar to that of the accident area and in instrument conditions. A postaccident examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

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

The non-instrument-rated pilot's decision to fly into known instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of airplane control.

Full narrative available

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