NTSB Identification: ERA12FA438
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 11, 2012 in Moscow, TN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/02/2013
Aircraft: CIRRUS DESIGN CORP SR20, registration: N764RV
Injuries: 1 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 on a personal flight in instrument meteorological conditions with no flight plan filed. An employee at the departure airport who talked with the accident pilot before he took off reported that the pilot stated he was in a "hurry to depart due to possible bad weather in the area." A review of radar data indicated that the accident airplane flew at a relatively constant altitude of about 1,000 feet mean sea level (msl) for about 25 minutes after takeoff. The data showed that the radar target then began to climb, with intermittent descents of 100 to 200 feet. The last recorded radar return indicated an airplane altitude of 2,600 feet msl. Postaccident analysis of the airplane’s position information showed that last 10 seconds of recorded data exhibited a steadily increasing rate of descent; the last 2 seconds of data recorded a 5,000-foot-per-minute rate of descent that increased to a 15,000 foot-per-minute rate of descent. The airplane’s roll rate during the last 10 seconds of recorded data varied from a 24-degree roll to the right to a 28-degree roll to the left. Additionally, the recorded flight data showed that the airplane’s ground speed reached about 140 knots then it decreased to about 20 knots during the last 2 seconds of the flight.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. A review of weather information and witness statements revealed that conditions at the time of the accident would have likely produced restricted visibility. It is likely that the presence of restricted visibility conditions and the airplane’s abrupt turns just before the accident would have been conducive to the development of spatial disorientation. Therefore, the airplane’s ensuing rapid descent and steep bank angle likely resulted from the pilot losing control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation. 

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

The non-instrument rated pilot’s decision to continue visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in his spatial disorientation, a loss of airplane control, and subsequent impact with trees and terrain.

Full narrative available

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