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 airplane departed on the local night flight in instrument flight rules conditions with 7 miles visibility and overcast clouds at 300 ft above ground level (agl). Radar data showed that the airplane departed the runway, made one flight around the traffic pattern, and landed 6 minutes later. The airplane departed again to the west, did not remain in the traffic pattern, and reached an altitude of 740 ft agl. The airplane made a left turn, which tightened as the airplane descended about 1,900 ft per minute. The airplane impacted a field and bounced one time before it came to rest upright.
An onboard recording device (GoPro) was found near the wreckage and the files were recovered. Based on the available information, it is likely that the GoPro files were recorded on May 30 and May 31, 2014, with the final GoPro file recorded during the 6-minute flight in the traffic pattern. The accident flight was not recorded. The GoPro recordings revealed that the pilot and various passengers were taking self-photographs with their cell phones and, during the night flight, using the camera’s flash function during the takeoff roll, initial climb, and flight in the traffic pattern.
A postaccident examination of the airplane did not reveal any preimpact anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. Based on the wreckage distribution, which was consistent with a high-speed impact, and the degraded visual reference conditions, it is likely that the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of the airplane. The evidence is consistent with an aerodynamic stall and subsequent spin into terrain. Based on the evidence of cell phone use during low-altitude maneuvering, including the flight immediately before the accident flight, it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control. A review of the pilot’s logbooks did not show that he met the currency requirements for flight in instrument meteorological conditions or night flight with passengers.