Rush to get airborne leaves five dead

These June 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: Beech Bonanza.

Location: Los Angeles.

Injuries: 5 Fatal, 7 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had approximately 1,100 hours of experience, including 150 in the six months prior to the accident, but he did not have an instrument rating. During the first of three weather briefings, the briefer told the pilot there were AIRMETS in effect for IFR conditions and mountain obscuration. The pilot was anxious to depart because he had to drop one of the passengers off in Sun Valley before he could take the other two to look at some property. During the second briefing the pilot was told VFR flight was not recommended. He called back a few hours later and was told the conditions had improved to marginal VFR. The pilot inquired if he could legally fly under visual flight rules, to which the briefer replied that yes, he was legal to fly. The pilot and three passengers departed.

After takeoff, the pilot asked the controller if he knew if the weather was clearing towards the east. The controller stated that it was not. The pilot replied that he was going to fly towards the east, and find a break or hole in the clouds to “pop up through.” There were no more transmissions from the pilot on any frequency. Cloud bases in the area ranged from 2,200 feet to 3,100 feet. A witness reported seeing the airplane enter the base of an overcast cloud layer, and then descend out of the clouds in a spinning, steep nose down attitude that continued to impact with a three-story apartment building. A post-impact fire destroyed the airplane. The occupants of the airplane and one resident of the apartment building were killed. In addition seven people on the ground were seriously injured.

Probable cause: The in-flight loss of control due to spatial disorientation, and failure to maintain airspeed, which resulted in a stall/spin. Also a factor was the pilot’s disregard of the weather information and his attempt to continue VFR flight into IMC, as well as his self-induced pressure to complete the flight.

Aircraft: Mooney.

Location: West Chicago, Ill.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Minor

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who held a commercial certificate, was attempting to land at night, but came in too fast and flared too high. The airplane touched down hard and bounced. The pilot added full power to do a go around, but before the aircraft could attain a positive rate of climb, it bounced again and veered off the pavement. The nose gear collapsed when it went into the grass and the pilot reduced power. The pilot couldn’t regain directional control and the Mooney struck several airport lights and signs before coming to a stop.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper flare, and the failure to maintain directional control. Contributing factors were the inadequate recovery from a bounced landing.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Gettysburg, S.D.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had an instrument rating but, according to his logbook, he had not had an instrument proficiency check since 2000. In addition, his medical certificate had expired. There was no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing prior to the flight. The weather at the time of the accident was reported as heavy rain and hazy with poor visibility. There were no records of the pilot filing a flight plan. When the pilot did not arrive at his destination, a search was launched. The wreckage of the airplane was found a few hours later on a hillside. Investigators determined the Cessna hit the ground in a vertical attitude. A radar review of the flight showed a spiral decent from 7,700 feet to impact.

Probable cause: The pilot not maintaining aircraft control in cruise flight leading to his inadvertent spiral. A factor was the in-flight encounter with moderate to heavy rain.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Sheboygan, Wis.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot checked the weather via the automated weather observation system prior to departing for the night flight. Witnesses said the pilot was anxious to get home. Visibility was a 1/4-mile in fog with a ceiling of 100 feet. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating or file a flight plan. The person who dropped the pilot and passenger at the airport last saw the airplane as it began to taxi east on the ramp, but quickly lost sight of it in the fog. Another witness said he did not see the airplane, but heard the engine increase to full power followed by the sound of an impact. The wreckage was located on airport property approximately 1,700 feet from the departure end of the runway.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane after encountering instrument meteorological conditions during takeoff. Factors associated with the accident were the low ceiling, fog and lack of instrument rating.

Aircraft: Piper Seminole.

Location: Battleboro, N.C.

Injuries: 3 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The purpose of the instructional flight was to add multiengine, instrument onto the dual student’s CFI rating. The pilot providing instruction had approximately 500 hours, including 275 in the Seminole. The pilot receiving instruction had approximately 1,800 hours of which 10 were in a multiengine aircraft. The passenger held a commercial certificate for single-engine land. The flight departed at 1315, the instrument flight plan was cancelled and the flight continued under visual flight rules. Radar data showed the airplane conducting maneuvers at altitudes between 4,200 and 4,700 feet above ground level. At approximately 1340, an eyewitness heard the airplane flying overhead and then heard the sound of the engine stop. The witness looked up and saw the airplane spinning towards the ground. The witness did not recall hearing the engines running during the final descent. No anomalies with the airplane were noted during the post-crash examination.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain flying speed, which resulted in a stall/spin and the uncontrolled collision with the ground.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Gainesville, Texas.

Injuries: 1 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Minor.

What reportedly happened: The 33-hour student pilot was trying to land with a right crosswind on a runway that measured 100-feet wide. The student reported that as he touched down, a gust of wind blew the aircraft to the left. The student pilot applied right rudder, right aileron while simultaneously adding power in order to do a go around. The attempt to maintain directional control was not successful and the airplane departed the runway and struck the windsock.

Probable cause: The failure to maintain directional control while landing. Contributing factors were the prevailing crosswind and the failure to abort landing.

Aircraft: Cessna 210.

Location: Tallahassee, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was preparing for an instrument flight with two passengers. He told investigators that as he was on the ramp with the engine running and in the process of reading back a clearance, he noticed fire coming through the floor by the rudder pedals. The pilot instructed his passengers to evacuate the airplane immediately. He placed the engine fuel mixture into the off position, then exited the aircraft. An inspection determined that a battery electrical wire had been arcing and chafing against the steel braided fuel hose.

Probable cause: The arcing of the battery electric wire that was chafing against the main steel braided fuel hose, resulting in fire in the engine compartment.

Aircraft: Cherokee.

Location: Hamilton, Ala.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: According to the pilot, about 45 minutes into the flight, while flying at an altitude of 3,000 feet, the engine lost power. Attempts to restore power were unsuccessful, so the pilot selected a nearby pasture for an emergency landing. The airplane collided with trees on the way down. The post-crash examination of the engine revealed the No. 2 cylinder rod cap was broken, and there was no oil in the engine or in the sump. Review of the Cherokee 140 owner’s handbook noted the oil sump should contain between two and eight quarts of oil. There was no evidence of an in-flight oil leak. The pilot did not report finding any problems with the airplane during his preflight.

Probable cause: The inadequate preflight inspection and his failure to ensure adequate oil supply, which resulted in oil exhaustion and the failure of the connecting rod cap.

Aircraft: Aviat Husky.

Location: Atlanta, Idaho.

Injuries: 2 fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had approximately 520 hours, including 23 in the accident airplane, made two attempts to land at the mountainous airstrip. This was the pilot’s first visit to the airport. The gravel runway measured 2,650 long and was surrounded by trees. According to a witness on the ground, on the first attempt to land, the aircraft came in too fast and too high, so the pilot executed a go around. On the second attempt the airplane touched down more than halfway down the runway. The engine backfired and the airplane veered to the right, then lifted off again in an attempt to do a go around. The airplane climbed, but did not have sufficient altitude to clear a tree approximately 400 feet from the departure end of the runway. The right wing hit the tree. The aircraft hit the ground.

An airport facilities directory and a guidebook were found in the wreckage. Both books described the airport as challenging because of the short runway and the proximity of the trees. The advisories cautioned pilots to use the airport at their own risk, noting it “can be hazardous. Not recommended except for experienced pilots with local knowledge.”

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to land on the first third of the runway, followed by the failure to maintain clearance from trees during the initial climb. Lack of familiarity with the area and trees were also factors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *