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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN09FA562
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 05, 2009 in Tulsa, OK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/27/2011
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-300, registration: N1228H
Injuries: 5 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 private pilot obtained a standard weather briefing for a cross-country flight and was advised that a visual flight rules (VFR) flight was not recommended. The ceiling was 600 feet overcast with 4 miles visibility. Approximately 4 hours later, the pilot radioed ground control for taxi and a VFR clearance. The controller informed the pilot that the airport was in instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions. The pilot then requested and received an IFR clearance.

The pilot departed and had to be reminded by the local and departure controllers to make several course and altitude changes. The pilot acknowledged the changes but took no action. The pilot was also warned of antennas near his position. Review of radar data revealed the pilot's altitude varied from 1,100 feet mean sea level (msl) to 1,600 feet (msl). The last radar target was at 1,200 feet msl in a left descending turn although the pilot had been instructed to climb to 4,000 feet 2 minutes before the accident. During periods of low visibility, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to spatial disorientation. Further, the pilot's descending turn when he was supposed to be climbing is indicative of spatial disorientation. The airplane then collided with a guy wire on a 600-foot radio transmission tower at a terrain elevation of 860 feet msl.

Postaccident examination of the airframe, flight controls, engine assembly, and accessories revealed no anomalies. The altimeter, transponder, and transponder automatic altitude reporting system test was current. The gyroscopic instruments were destroyed and could not be examined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The non-instrument-rated pilot’s decision to attempt flight in instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in spatial disorientation and an in-flight collision with a radio tower guy wire.