If the temptation to punch out through a thin cloud layer without official sanction is too powerful for some pilots to resist, descending through a “hole” in an overcast — sometimes little more than a thin spot — runs a close second.
Holes in the clouds, and the false hope they bring, might have played a part in a different accident. This one took place in mountain-free Nebraska on a winter Sunday in 2016. The 115-hour, non-instrument-rated pilot of a Cessna 172 needed to get from Columbia, Missouri, to Sioux City, Iowa, to be at work the next day. There were IFR conditions along the route with cloud tops at 4,500 feet, and he chose to fly above the overcast. Sioux City was IFR when he approached, and he decided to divert to Wayne, Nebraska, a little to the southwest, where the reported conditions were VFR with scattered clouds at 200 feet.