Coyote-hunting flight ends in tragedy

These February 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Piper TriPacer.

Location: Garryowen, Mont.

Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The purpose of the flight was to locate and exterminate coyotes in the area at the request of local farmers. The passenger said they were flying low in preparation for landing when they saw a coyote. The pilot maneuvered the aircraft so that the gun-bearing passenger could shoot the animal. The shot hit the animal and the pilot resumed the approach to the airport. A few seconds later the pilot spotted a second coyote approximately 400 yards in front of the aircraft. The pilot made a low altitude pass in a right slip so the passenger could get a shot at the animal. The passenger missed and the coyote dodged to the left. The passenger said he expected the pilot to turn left but instead the aircraft dipped to the right and hit the ground.

Probable cause: The pilot in command allowed the aircraft to inadvertently enter a stall at low altitude while maneuvering. A contributing factor was the intentional low altitude maneuvering.


Aircraft: Beech Bonanza.

Location: Middletown, Calif.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The commercially rated pilot was attempting to take off from a private dirt 1,600-foot runway. The pilot told investigators that the run up was normal, so he applied full power and initiated the takeoff roll. As the aircraft moved down the runway, one wheel entered softer soil. The aircraft slowed. The pilot maneuvered the aircraft back to the harder surface. He was running out of runway, so he abruptly pulled back on the yoke to get the aircraft off the ground to avoid a wire fence at the end of the runway. The main tires hit the fence. The aircraft did not have flying speed and stalled. The aircraft hit a house close to the runway

Probable cause: The failure to attain an adequate takeoff airspeed and failure to abort the takeoff when the lack of acceleration was apparent.


Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Everett, Wash.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The private pilot was undergoing instruction for an instrument rating. The pilot and his CFI were flying in instrument meteorological conditions. As they executed the missed approach, the aircraft began to pick up rime ice. The CFI made the decision to terminate the flight and asked air traffic control for radar vectors for the ILS so that the aircraft could land. Air traffic control supplied the vectors. The CFI warned the student that it was necessary to make the approach at a higher than normal airspeed because of the ice. On short final, when the aircraft was 15 feet above the ground, the pilot allowed the airspeed to slow to 75 knots. The aircraft stalled and landed hard. The aircraft bounced back into the air. The CFI took control of the aircraft, but was unable to regain directional control before the aircraft went off the runway. The nosewheel dug in to the soft ground and the aircraft nosed over.

Probable cause: Failure to maintain adequate airspeed, resulting in a stall and the instructor’s inadequate supervision of the flight. Contributing factors were the icing conditions and the soft terrain encountered on the off runway rollout.


Aircraft: Cessna 421.

Location: Ferguson, Ky.

Injuries: 3 Fatal, 4 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The commercially rated pilot was flying at night in instrument meteorological conditions. A flight plan had been filed. The pilot had 11,732 hours of experience, including 518 in the accident aircraft. According to air traffic controllers on duty at the time of the flight, the airplane joined the inbound course for the GPS instrument approach between the intermediate approach fix and the final approach fix. The aircraft was 200 feet below the sector minimum altitude. The last radar return revealed the airplane to be about 3/4 nautical mile beyond the final approach fix and approximately 1,000 feet to the left of course. A witness living near the airport reported that the aircraft came over the house so low that the building shook. The witness ran outside and watched as the plane disappeared over the crest of a hill. The witness then heard a loud explosion and saw an orange ball of fire. The aircraft crashed in hilly terrain 1.5 nautical miles from the airport. Several broken trees in the vicinity indicated the aircraft went into the woods before it hit the hillside. The crash site was approximately 480 feet below the minimum descent altitude for the approach.

Probable cause: The failure to follow the instrument approach procedure, which resulted in an early descent into trees and terrain. Factors included the low ceiling and the night lighting conditions.


Aircraft: Piper Navajo.

Location: Taylor Mill, Ky.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: According to the commercially rated pilot, he estimated the 726 statute mile flight would take approximately three hours and 46 minutes. He planned one stop to pick up cargo, but did not intend to stop to refuel. The available fuel for the flight was 182 gallons, which the pilot determined would provide a fuel endurance of four hours and 55 minutes, assuming a 40-gallon per hour fuel burn. The flight proceeded uneventfully to the first stop. The pilot picked up the cargo, but did not refuel. As the aircraft approached the final destination, the pilot began to get nervous when he noticed the main fuel tanks appeared to be emptying faster than he had anticipated. He switched to the auxiliary fuel tanks for a few minutes, then switched back to the main tanks. During the approach to the airport, the right engine lost power. The pilot advised approach control of the situation. Shortly thereafter the left engine lost power. The pilot elected to perform a forced landing to a railroad yard near the airport. After touching down, the left wing struck a four-foot high dirt mound. The impact ripped the wing off the aircraft. The pilot told investigators that the loss of power to both engines was due to fuel exhaustion, and poor fuel planning on his part.

Probable cause: The inaccurate in-flight planning and fuel consumption calculations, and the improper decision not to land and refuel.

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