Final Report: Spatial disorientation brought down Caravan
Cessna 208B Caravan, Spanish Fort, Ala., Oct. 23, 2002–Despite speculation that a Mid-Atlantic Freight Caravan collided with another object (possibly a UAV), the NTSB determined that the cause of the crash was the 4,000-hour pilot’s spatial disorientation, which resulted in loss of control. Night IMC with variable cloud layers was a contributing factor.
The pilot had been advised of traffic and he reported the traffic was above him. He said he needed to deviate, and the data indicates that his airplane was in or entering an uncontrolled descent from 3,000 feet when he made the request.
The closest identified airplane to the Caravan was a DC-10, at about 4,000 feet. The horizontal distance between the two was about 1.1 nm, and the vertical distance was about 1,600 feet. The NTSB determined that wake turbulence from the DC-10 was not a factor in this accident. No evidence of collision was found on the DC-10. Marks on the Caravan were determined to have come from cargo. The Caravan pilot was killed and the airplane was destroyed when it went down in Big Bateau Bay, shortly after takeoff from Mobile Downtown Airport.
The meteorological conditions were conducive to spatial disorientation, said the NTSB. There was no visible horizon reference and the shifting of the pilot to see the DC-10, and its lights moving against a featureless background could have been further disorienting.