Alcohol and fog a deadly mix for C150 pilot

These November 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: Cessna 150.

Location: Bruceton Mills, W.V.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The accident victim purchased the airplane in October 2003 and had made a few flights in it, but did not posses a valid pilot’s certificate. On the day of the accident a witness said he saw the owner of the aircraft tinkering with its nose gear. The owner then performed some touch and goes, then told the witness he was going to go home and get some sleep. He returned to the airport a few hours later drinking a large beer. The witness said the owner appeared intoxicated and proceeded to fall asleep in a chair in the hangar.

Approximately 40 minutes later, he woke up, apparently still intoxicated. He asked the witness if he was going to fly that day. The witness told the pilot that the weather had deteriorated to a 300-foot overcast ceiling and the visibility less than a mile, therefore the weather was too poor to fly VFR.

The owner then left the hangar.

A few minutes later the witness heard the accident airplane take off. A second witness who lived near the airport said she heard the airplane but could only see its silhouette through the fog. The witness said the airplane made two passes over a field behind her house. The airplane was just above the tops of the trees when the engine noise lessened. The airplane came down in the field, hitting a Winnebago parked there.

The post-crash investigation did not find any mechanical problems with the aircraft. The autopsy on the pilot detected a blood alcohol level of 0.17%.

Probable cause: The pilot’s physical impairment due to alcohol and his improper decision to attempt flight with a low ceiling and low visibility after consuming alcohol.

Aircraft: Commander Aircraft 114TC.

Location: Hutchinson, Kan.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to do a missed approach at night in instrument meteorological conditions. He held an instrument rating, but was not instrument current as required by federal aviation regulations.

The weather at the time of the accident consisted of a ceiling at 200 feet agl and visibility between one and a quarter and two statute miles. The pilot had been cleared for the instrument landing system approach to runway 13. He was told to report either having the runway in sight or when he reached the decision height for the approach. The decision height would put him at an altitude of 1,724 feet msl, or approximately 200 feet over the ground. The pilot descended to 1,600 msl, then advised the controller that he did not see the approach lights so he was going to execute the missed approach. The missed approach instructions were to maintain runway heading and climb to 4,000 msl, then contact approach control. The pilot acknowledged the instructions but instead of initiating the climb while maintaining runway heading, executed a climbing turn to the left. The pilot was talking to approach control as he continued a climbing left turn. He reached an altitude of 2,000 feet msl before the airplane entered a descending left turn. The airplane crashed on a heading of 334°.

Probable cause: The pilot’s diverted attention during the missed approach, resulting in aircraft control not being maintained. Factors included the pilot not being current for instrument operations and the low cloud ceiling at night.

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