VFR into IMC fatal for Cub pilot

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The non-instrument-rated private pilot was conducting a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight in a Piper J-3 Cub. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) were forecast along the route, and the airplane was not equipped for flight in IMC.

The pilot had entered a flight plan in ForeFlight that noted a cruise altitude of 2,100 feet mean sea level (msl) for the route of flight.

ForeFlight displayed a terrain cross-section overview that noted that the highest point along the route was 3,800 feet msl and indicated that the planned route and altitude for the flight conflicted with the rising terrain.

About 1 hour 15 minutes after departure, the plane hit a mountain at 2,766 feet, about 150 feet below the summit, near Fancy Gap, Virginia. The pilot died in the crash.

The accident site was about 36 miles from the destination airport along a direct route between the departure and destination airports.

Accident site evidence and impact damage to the airplane were indicative of a high-speed impact, with a wreckage path that was oriented roughly opposite to the intended route of flight.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no anomalies with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation before the accident.

Weather observations near the departure and destination airports, AIRMETs, and visible satellite weather images all indicated that the pilot likely encountered IMC en route. Based on the direction of the wreckage path relative to the intended route of flight, he was likely maneuvering to return to visual meteorological conditions when the airplane collided with terrain.

The forecasts warning of IMC were issued prior to the pilot’s departure, and while it could not be determined whether he accessed these forecast materials, the flight planning application on his personal electronic device would have allowed him to view this information if an internet connection was available.

Toxicology test results showed that the pilot was taking two antidepressants, indicating that he had significant depression, which can be associated with significant cognitive degradation.

The testing also detected the presence of four impairing or sedating medications.

The pilot made critical errors in judgment both when he decided to undertake the flight along a route where instrument meteorological conditions were forecast, and when he elected to continue flight after encountering those conditions.

It is likely that the combination of his depression and his use of multiple impairing/sedating medications contributed to the pilot’s poor decision-making and

This post was originally published by General Aviation News on . Please visit the original post to read the complete article.

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