NTSB Identification: ANC12FA066
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Fairbanks, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/05/2013
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-301, registration: N432LT
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 noninstrument-rated pilot and one passenger were flying as part of a group of three airplanes on a sightseeing tour. The accident airplane and one of the other airplanes in the group encountered deteriorating weather and made an unplanned stop at an airport along their route of flight. After receiving fuel and updated enroute weather, both pilots decided to depart for their original destination.

During the second attempt to fly to the destination airport, the two airplanes again encountered deteriorating weather conditions. The pilot of the accident airplane decided to maintain visual flight rules, and the pilot of the other airplane requested an instrument flight rules clearance to the destination airport. A short time later, the pilot of the accident airplane contacted air traffic control and stated that he was having difficulty maintaining visual conditions and subsequently requested an instrument clearance. The pilot reported climbing through 6,800 feet for 7,000 feet, then no further communications were received. The wreckage was located on a brush- and tundra-covered hillside; the left wing had separated from the airplane inflight, followed by the separation of other airplane components before impact.

Given the reported weather, the pilot's lack of an instrument rating, his request for an instrument clearance, the wreckage path, and the lack of any mechanical anomalies, it is likely that the pilot encountered instrument meteorological conditions and became spatially disoriented while attempting to climb to a higher altitude. It is also likely that the pilot then lost control of the airplane, and entered a steep spiraling dive from which he was unable to recover. During the dive, the aerodynamic forces increased to the point that the left wing separated from the airplane, which tightened the spiral, and led to the in-flight structural failure of other sections of the airplane.

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

The noninstrument-rated pilot's decision to continue visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions likely leading to spatial disorientation, which resulted in a loss of airplane control and in-flight structural failure.

Full narrative available

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