Instrument failure contributes to crash that kills two

These January 2004 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: Bellanca Super Viking.

Location: Dallas, Texas.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 1,050-hour instrument-rated pilot filed an instrument flight plan and was given clearance for the airport’s standard instrument departure. He was confused by the departure instructions and the controller had to explain them twice. There were several attempts on the part of the pilot before his read-back of the instructions were correct. He also was confused by the instructions given to him by the tower. Shortly after the pilot took off, the tower controller contacted regional departure control to advise them that the pilot might need extra assistance.

The pilot switched to the departure frequency. The departure controller informed the pilot that he was not receiving the aircraft’s transponder beacon and asked the pilot to recycle the unit. The pilot complied. The controller instructed the pilot to turn right to a heading of 270°. However, on the radar screen the controller observed the pilot turning to the left. The controller advised the pilot that he had turned in the wrong direction. He replied that his attitude indicator and heading indicator had failed and he was attempting to fly using partial panel technique. He did not declare an emergency.

The controller then contacted approach control at the local airport to advise them that there was a pilot with what appeared to be spatial disorientation in the area. The pilot’s last transmission was to tell the controller that he was getting the hang of flying partial panel. The controller observed the pilot was still doing left turns instead of right turns like he was instructed to do. Several witnesses saw the airplane flying over a residential area at an altitude of approximately 125 feet agl before it crashed into a street and burst into flames. The airplane and several homes were destroyed.

Due to extensive fire damage, the cause of the loss of instruments during the flight could not be determined. However, it was noted that the wire bundle that connects the instrument panel through the firewall was in close proximity to the muffler’s exhaust flange, on the engine side of the firewall. Also, a fire extinguisher from the airplane was found in the wreckage. The handle-lock pin was missing and the bottle had been fully discharged, suggesting there had been a precrash fire.

Probable cause: The failure of flight/navigation instruments while in instrument meteorological conditions resulting in spatial disorientation.

Aircraft: Piper Lance.

Location: Fishers, Ind.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to do a circling approach in instrument meteorological conditions. According to the published instrument approach procedure, the minimum descent altitude for the circle to land approach was 1,340 feet msl. The elevation of the airport is 811 feet. A pilot flying the approved procedure to the MDA would be approximately 529 feet above ground. Weather at the time of the accident was reported as wind 190° at 12 knots, gusting to 17 knots and a ceiling of 300 feet. In his last conversation with air traffic control the pilot was warned that two other pilots had attempted to land at the airport but were forced to do missed approaches because visibility was too low to see the runway from the MDA. The pilot stated he wanted to try the approach anyway and was given a clearance. He descended to the MDA but was still in the clouds. Although he could not see the airport he continued to descend until he reached an altitude of 1,100 feet msl, which put him at 289 feet above the surface on the south end of the runway. He maneuvered for the left downwind with the intent of circling to land on runway 15. As he made the turn to downwind the left wing clipped the uppermost branches of a tree. He pulled up slightly and continued the approach, landing on runway 15. A witness told investigators that the airplane was rocking back and forth as it made the final approach and was so low it barely missed hitting the chimney of a home. Damage to the wing consisted of multiple dents, some as deep as four inches, from the wing tip to the wing root. A dent was also found in the left aileron.

Probable cause: The pilot not maintaining altitude/clearance from the trees during the circling approach and his decision to continue below minimum descent altitude and not performing a missed approach.

Leave a Reply

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