The most dangerous way to look at these kinds of reports is to say "how could they be so stupid? Look at what that idiot did! I would NEVER do something that dumb, look at where it got him."
It is very easy to say that now. It would be much more advantagous to look at the accident, and ask how the pilot painted themselves into that position. What factors were driving him/her towards that fatal decision?
A pilot in Pennsylvania, before leaving an airport, inquiring about the availability of mechanics later that day. He said he had problems starting his engine. Later, on the way back in night VFR, the engine quit and pilot was forced into a night landing in a field. Pilot was fatally injured.
What was the problem with the engine? I've had plenty of engines that were hard to start, many of them were difficult to start for reasons that were unrelated to keeping the engine running, and I flew it once she finally fired. Maybe he was thinkign the same thing; "hmm, no mechanic 'till monday? well, I'll give it one more shot and we'll see..." What sends shivers down MY
spine is thinking of how many times I've had that happen. Would I launch on a night flight in a single with a discrepancy like that? Well, maybe not now.
-A non-instrument rated pilot calling for weather reports from Midland to Sugar Land, Texas, then getting a report that VFR was not advised. Said pilot departed anyways, and crashed fatally 22 miles outside of Burnet, Texas. The wreckage was dispersed over 600 feet.
Again, caution against scud running; but how many times have we all heard that phrase "VFR not recommended" That in itself means very little it is used so often, in such a wide range of weather conditions. Was he thinking the same thing? What factors would drive a competent (let's assume that for a minute) pilot to launch in bad weather while VFR?
I can think of a few times I, myself got caught with my pants down. Towing banners one summer, not a day went by without the same forcast "warm, sunny, with a chance of thunderstorms" Sometimes they did materialize, others not. We would keep our eyes on the horizon, and stay alert, but with no radios in the Cub, it was impossible to keep well informed as we should have. Weather was deteriorating around me, but it was slow and gradual enough that I didn't notice all at once, until the 6 miles of vis was now down to about 2. Problem was, I was outside my radius of action; I didn't have enough fuel to get home, nearest airport was ahead. Pressing on into the haze I couldn't really see far enough to keep my eye out for T-storms either.
To make a long story short, I found myself on the beach, 2 miles from shore on a barrier island, with dark skies all around me, in heavy rain, and low on gas. I got lucky, and was able to sneak into our other field, running LOW over the meadowlands, between 500-200', contact flying, and thinking how in the hell did I get myself into this? A gradual worsening of conditions that went unnoticed, until it was too late.
Food for thought.