NTSB Identification: ERA13FA062
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, November 18, 2012 in Savannah, GA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/06/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 172K, registration: N78304
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 pilot was attempting an instrument landing system approach to a northbound runway in night, instrument meteorological conditions. The air traffic controller issued a series of radar vectors to the pilot to guide him to the localizer course. However, after the controller cleared the pilot to intercept the localizer, the airplane instead continued across the localizer course. The pilot initiated a 270-degree turn to the south, crossed the localizer course, and then turned back toward the localizer course again. The controller observed that the airplane was in a descent and queried the pilot on his altitude. The pilot replied that he was "…trying to recover." Radio and radar contact were then lost and search and rescue operations were initiated.

The airplane was located in a salt marsh south of the destination airport and appeared to have been in a right, descending spiral when it impacted the marshy terrain. The wreckage was extremely fragmented. An examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of a preimpact mechanical anomaly or failure that would have precluded normal operation. Propeller signatures indicated high engine power at impact.

The pilot received his instrument rating about 6 months before the accident, at which time he reported about 189 hours of total flight time, including about 43 hours of instrument and 21 hours of night pilot-in-command flight time. Based on the night, instrument meteorological conditions, the pilot's actions and responses during the flight, and examination of the wreckage, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of the airplane.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain airplane control while operating in night, instrument meteorological conditions, due to spatial disorientation.

Full narrative available

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