Flight over neighborhood ends in fatal crash

These October 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: Rans S-10.

Location: Ponder, Texas.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Several witnesses said the pilot, who had logged about 314 hours, was maneuvering low over a neighborhood and waving to friends. He made another pass approximately 200 feet above the ground, then the airplane pitched nose up, rolled to the right, and flew “straight into the ground” in a nose-down attitude.

Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to conduct low altitude maneuvering flight and his failure to maintain adequate airspeed.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Wax, Ky.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot and passenger departed on a local flight. When the airplane did not return on time, a search was launched. The airplane was located in a lake, under 21 feet of water. A power line that normally extended high above the lake was dangling low over the surface. It had impact marks on it. The leading edge of the airplane’s wing had impact marks on it as well. A power interruption had been reported about one hour after the airplane departed.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain obstacle clearance. Low altitude flight was a contributing factor.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee.

Location: Cheswold, Del.

Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The airplane was at the end of a night cross-country flight on a moonless night. The pilot had 1,100 hours of experience, about 88 of them at night. The pilot called the flight service station for a weather briefing, but did not ask for NOTAMs.

A NOTAM had been issued two weeks prior to the accident regarding an unlit utility pole and power lines 1,000 feet east of runway 27.

The passenger said she and the pilot flew in and out of the airport frequently, but they usually landed on runway 9, not runway 27. The accident happened during an approach to runway 27.

As the aircraft was on final the passenger noticed they were below what she thought was the top of a tree, then felt a bump and saw a bright flash. The airplane hit an unlit 56-foot-high utility pole.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain a proper glide path to the runway and his failure to maintain obstacle clearance, resulting in an in-flight collision with an unlit utility pole.

Aircraft: Piper Aztec.

Location: Cordesville, S.C.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had 5,500 hours and held a commercial pilot certificate with an instructor rating. Nearing the end of an instrument cross-country flight, he was cleared to descend to 3,000 feet. He acknowledged the instructions and there was no further radio communication. Radar data showed the last recorded position for the flight was approximately 20 miles northeast of the airport at 2,900 feet. Two witnesses near the accident site reported hearing what sounded like a car back fire. One witness reported he saw the airplane flying west over the treeline, then he heard the sound of an impact. The wreckage was found in a heavily wooded area amid charred trees and burned pine straw. The engines were embedded about 5 feet in the ground, and the chordline of the wings was approximately perpendicular to the ground.

An autopsy detected antidepressants and a drug used to treat a heart condition. The pilot had not reported the use of these medications or the illnesses they were prescribed for on any applications for his medical certificate.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which resulted in an inadvertent stall and subsequent uncontrolled descent into trees and the ground. A factor was the pilot’s impairment due to non-FAA approved drugs.

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