There's no place like home, but...

Poor judgment combined with a strong desire to get home can be deadly. The pilot of a Piper Tri-Pacer proved this point when he died trying to get home in bad weather.

On January 15, 2001, the pilot departed early for a flight to Lawrence, Massachusetts. Enroute, the pilot was forced to land at the Norwood airport because of snow and poor weather conditions.

At 10:00 am local time, the pilot called his wife and told her that he was waiting for a rental car to arrive, so he could drive home. He placed a second call at 2:30 pm, telling his wife he was still waiting for the rental car. During that call they also discussed the possibility of renting a hotel room for the evening.

At 4:12 pm, the pilot contacted ATC, requesting a special VFR (SVFR) departure to the southwest. According to the controller the cloud ceiling at the time was 400 feet overcast, and he also noticed up to two inches of slush and snow accumulated on the airplane. The controller advised the pilot of the low ceiling and wing contamination, and denied the SVFR request.

Despite what the controller told him, the pilot departed to the southwest without a clearance. The last known radio transmission was the pilot reporting he was clear of the class delta airspace. Numerous witnesses in the area observed a low flying airplane, and one observed it strike a power line. The pilot's body was recovered in May of 2001, but the airplane has not been found.

The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's decision to takeoff and attempt VFR flight into IMC conditions.

VFR flight into IMC continues to be a silent, deadly killer. Although few accidents are a result of VFR into IMC, almost all of them are fatal. For more information about VFR into IMC and weather in general, see ASF's Safety Advisors, Weather Strategies and Weather Tactics .

Also, Bruce Landsberg has written numerous articles about VFR flight into IMC.


This accident report as well as others can be found in ASF's Online Database.

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