Drunk pilot with no license and unregistered plane dies in Georgia accident

These May 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: Rans S-12 XL.

Location: Cummings, Ga.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: There was no record of the pilot having any experience in the aircraft, receiving pilot training or having a pilot certificate. The pilot had owned the aircraft for approximately three months, but the aircraft was unregistered. No logbooks for the aircraft or engine were found. Witnesses at the airport stated that it was night and that the runway, which was on a bluff, was not equipped with runway edge lights. The witnesses aligned their cars along the end of the runway and turned on their headlights to provide illumination. The airplane made multiple low approaches. The first two resulted in go arounds. On the third approach the pilot came in very low. The aircraft was so low the pilot banked the airplane to the left to avoid a collision with the windsock. The airplane descended below the bluff and out of view. Witnesses heard the on-board ballistic rocket system detonate. This was followed by the sound of a power line transformer explosion. The burning wreckage was located 275 feet southeast of the airport. There were paint smears on the back spar and the propeller blade. The toxicology report revealed that the pilot had a blood alcohol level of .074%. Fluoxetine, a prescription antidepressant, was also detected in the pilot’s blood.

Probable cause: The unqualified person’s poor judgment and his failure to maintain clearance from power lines and trees while maneuvering for a landing that resulted in the in-flight collision with trees and power lines.

Aircraft: Mooney M20M.

Location: Cary, N.C.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The instrument-rated pilot, who had 2,493 hours, was on an instrument flight plan. The weather at the time of the approach was low clouds and fog. Since the pilot was not familiar with the destination airport, he requested and was given radar vectors. Approach control informed the pilot that when he was established on the localizer he was cleared for the ILS runway 5 Left approach. The pilot made several attempts to land using that approach but all attempts terminated with the missed approach procedure. Air traffic control observed the pilot making what appeared to be a series of spirals and queried him about his condition and intentions. The controller asked the pilot if he was using the correct approach plate for the ILS 5L as he was not complying with the instructions for heading or altitude. The pilot replied that he was used to flying in Arizona where the weather was different. The controller assigned the pilot headings and altitude but the pilot could not hold either. He climbed to 4,100 feet. Approach control warned the pilot he was in a continuous left turn and suggested that he divert to airports that were in VFR conditions. The pilot requested another attempt at the ILS approach to 5L. Approach control saw the aircraft’s radar track indicate a descending left turn and issued a warning. The pilot did not respond. Radar and radio contact with the airplane was lost. Several hours later the wreckage was located some five miles south of the airport in a small shallow lake near an apartment complex. Witness said the airplane collided with trees and then the lake. The post-accident examination of the airframe and the engine assembly did not reveal any flight control anomalies.

Probable cause: The pilot experienced spatial disorientation, which resulted in a loss of control and the subsequent collision with trees.

Aircraft: Skyraider 1.

Location: Blounts Creek, N.C.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: It could not be determined if the pilot conducted a preflight inspection prior to take off or if he checked the fuel for contaminants. Based on the GPS track recovered from the airplane, the flight duration was one minute and 20 seconds. A witness stated that the airplane was on a base to final for the grass strip runway when the left wing dipped and the airplane went straight into the ground. Examination of the wreckage revealed that there was a small amount of corrosion from water inside the bowl of the carburetor and the bowl contained fuel and water. Four ounces of water was discovered in the header fuel tank. The left wing tank had no facilities for a drain in the tank and 10 to 12 ounces of water was found in that tank. The right fuel tank had been compromised and was empty.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which resulted in a stall. A factor was loss of engine power and water in the fuel.

Aircraft: Piper Super Cub.

Location: Laurel, Mont.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot reported that he and his wife were sightseeing along the Yellowstone River just south of Laurel, Mont., when he spotted what he described as unusual animal tracks on a gravel sand bar adjacent to the river. He applied one notch of flaps and executed a 180° turn for a “low and slow look.” The plane struck the water and nosed over.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate clearance/altitude while maneuvering resulting in the inadvertent in-flight collision with water and terrain.

Aircraft: Cessna 170.

Location: Shirley, N.Y.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot conducted a preflight inspection of the airplane and departed for a local flight. Approximately 20 minutes after takeoff, he noticed a drop in engine oil pressure and engine power. Attempts to trouble shoot the problem were unsuccessful and the engine lost all power. The pilot performed a successful forced landing in a parking lot.

After landing, the pilot exited the airplane and noticed smoke and fire emanating from the cowling. He also noticed that the engine cowling plugs were still in place. The fire consumed the airplane.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate pre-flight inspection, which resulted in his failure to remove the engine inlet covers and subsequent loss of engine power.

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