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 instrument-rated pilot received weather data via a computerized flight planning service on the morning of the accident. The briefing included a synopsis for upper Michigan that indicated overcast conditions at 3,000 feet with cloud tops at 12,000 feet, visibility of 3 to 5 miles with light snow showers and mist, and wind from the northwest gusting to 25 knots. An airmen’s meteorological information was current for instrument flight rules conditions with ceilings below 1,000 feet and visibility below 3 miles with precipitation, mist, and blowing snow at the time of the accident. Several witnesses reported hearing the airplane heading west, which was in the direction of the departure airport. Another witness stated that, due to the snow, he could only see the airplane's lights but that it appeared that the airplane banked “hard,” pitched up and down, and accelerated as it descended. The airplane impacted terrain about 1 mile east of the airport in a heavily wooded valley. The airplane was substantially damaged from impact and a postimpact fire. One witness reported whiteout conditions and several witnesses reported that it was snowing heavily at the time of the accident. Dark light and gusting wind conditions were also present at the time of the accident. An examination of the airplane and engine did not reveal any preimpact anomalies that would have prevented normal operation. The pilot was likely trying to return to the airport after encountering dark night conditions and heavy snow showers and subsequently lost control of the airplane.