Cat. 2 investigation report: simplified-format report, adapted to the circumstances of the occurrence and the investigation stakes.
During a club excursion with four aeroplanes departing from Guadeloupe bound for the island of Dominica, the group gradually fell more and more behind schedule as it did not have proper control of the day’s programme.
Insufficient organisation of the excursion combined with the ‘group effect’ led to the crews returning to Guadeloupe under night VFR despite several of the pilots not having the recent experience required to fly in these conditions. This choice was the result of a consensus reached in a situation governed by strong time pressure that had not really been anticipated. The efforts of the members of the group to reach this consensus (sticking to the planned programme, consideration of personal constraints, desire not to let the restaurant owner down) may have overridden their motivation to objectively assess the risks of the situation for the entire group and alternative solutions (for example foregoing some of the planned programme or arranging to stay on the island overnight). As they were responsible for the delayed take-off at the start of the day, the pilots on board F-OGKO could have found it all the more difficult to envisage going against the group’s decision.
The night was dark, the sky was cloudy and it was raining when F-OGKO took off.
The investigation was not able to determine who was flying the aeroplane. However, the limited flight experience, and notably the lack of recent night flight experience of both pilots probably did not enable them to manage the difficulty represented by a take-off on a dark night towards the sea.
After take-off, the instant change from lit runway to total darkness over the sea, most probably deprived the pilot flying of external visual references and probably caused him to experience spatial disorientation.