ASF studies have proven numerous times that VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) continues to be one of the deadliest accident causes. On March 8, 2001 a recently certified (November, 2000) Canadian ATP with more than 30,000 hours, flying a Cessna U206G Canadian registration C-GISV, proved it once again.
On the day of the accident, IMC prevailed. The pilot had contacted Seattle Flight Service on three different occasions, and was advised each time that VFR flight was not recommended. During the third call, the pilot filed a VFR flight plan for his flight from Renton, WA to Spokane, WA. The route the pilot chose to fly would take him south from Renton to the Columbia River, then east along the river to The Dalles, and then northeast to Spokane.
The pilot departed Renton at 11:06 am, and was informed that his transponder was not functioning. At 12:37 pm, he contacted Seattle flight watch and was advised of continued mountain obscuration and icing along his route.
At 1:52 pm, the pilot contacted the tower at Spokane (GEG), stated he was 15 south and requested current weather. The controller responded that Spokane visibility was 5 miles with light rain and mist, a few clouds at 700 and a ceiling of 1,100 overcast. The pilot replied, "We have a lower ceiling where we are at this altitude" and asked for radar vectors for landing at GEG. He was then asked to switch to Spokane approach.
At 1:57 pm, he was given a transponder code by Spokane Approach, and then informed controllers of his transponder troubles. The pilot said he was 12 south of the airport at 2,700 feet, But the controller said, "I won't be able to pick you up at that altitude so therefore I can't give you radar vectors to any type of approach or to the airport." The pilot then asked about Coeur d'Alene (COE), Idaho, where reported weather was 7 miles visibility, a few clouds at 100 feet and a ceiling of 2,000 feet overcast. The pilot then told ATC he was going to try and make his way to COE or head back south and try to pick up a small airport.
A witness in the area reported seeing a Cessna between 2:00 pm and 2:15 pm, estimating it to be about 300 feet above the highway. He said it was under the fog line, and then disappeared into the fog heading towards Mica Peak. At 2:20 pm, ATC reported a brief ELT transmission. The wreckage was located on the west side of Mica Peak in up sloping, heavily wooded terrain. Impact was approximately 4,760 feet MSL. The pilot was killed, and the airplane destroyed.
The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's continued flight into IMC. Contributing factors were the fog, drizzle/mist, low ceilings, rising terrain, and the malfunctioning transponder.
According to the 2002 ASF Nall Report, 84% of VFR into IMC accidents in 2001 were fatal, odds so stacked against a pilot it begs the question: why did the pilot choose not to use his instrument rating, instead filing a VFR flight plan?
Several ASF and AOPA resources are available for pilots wanting to learn more about continued VFR into IMC, including:
This accident report as well as others can be found in ASF's Online Database.
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