Choice of wrong runway fatal for California pilot

These June 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: RV-6.

Location: Cloverdale, Calif.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who had approximately 1,800 hours, was attempting to land on runway 14 although the winds favored runway 32. Witnesses said the wind was blowing from the northwest at 15 knots with gusts to 25 knots, so the aircraft had a significant tailwind. The plane came down hard 10 feet short of the runway threshold and burst into flames.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate in-flight planning/decision and selection of the wrong runway and inadequate compensation for the gusting tail wind conditions, which resulted in a stall/mush and subsequent crash.

Aircraft: Champion 7AC.

Location: La Porte, Calif.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot, who had 158 hours, was flying over some property he owned in mountainous terrain in order to take photographs. He had rigged a camera on the right wing strut so that it could be remotely activated from inside the cockpit. The student’s instructor told the NTSB that he had discouraged the student from conducting the photo flight, advising him to wait until he had finished his private pilot training and received training in mountain flying before he attempted the flight. The instructor had not signed the student off for the cross-country solo flight into mountainous terrain.

While the student was maneuvering over a ravine for the photos, the plane’s right wing hit a tree and it spun into the ground.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain clearance with trees while flying in mountainous terrain.

Aircraft: Powered Parachute.

Location: Wolf Point, Mont.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot purchased the aircraft and started flying it without getting any instruction. A CFI warned him that he needed in- flight instruction before he attempted to fly solo. The instructor pilot, who did provide ground instruction to the pilot subsequently, discovered that he had been flying the aircraft since he first purchased it. The pilot admitted to the instructor pilot that he had an accident in the first month he owned the aircraft in which the propeller was broken when he rolled it on landing. The instructor again advised the pilot that he needed to get in-flight instruction and should not be flying on his own. The pilot agreed to get more in-flight instruction but this did not happen. A family member said the pilot had told her there was a way to make the airplane turn quicker by pulling harder on some of the cables that control the parachute. The family member told investigators that on the flight prior to the accident she didn’t feel comfortable with some of the turns the pilot was making and wanted him to land. She told investigators that on the fatal flight the pilot was an estimated 500 feet above the ground when he attempted to make some tight turns. The aircraft lost altitude rapidly, hit the ground and burst into flames.

The CFI told investigators that pulling in too much steering line could collapse the side of the parachute the line is on. He believed the pilot was unable to re-inflate the parachute after the steering lines became entangled.

Probable cause: The pilot’s loss of control as a result of trying a low altitude quick turning maneuver. A factor was his lack of experience and training in the aircraft.

Aircraft: Stearman 4E.

Location: Loganton, Pa.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land on a 2,200-foot-long, 110-foot-wide turf runway. During the landing roll, the airplane drifted right and encountered uneven terrain, which elevated the tailwheel. As the pilot applied the brakes, the airplane nosed over and came to rest on the runway.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control during the landing roll, which resulted in a nose over.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Forest Lake, Minn.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to fly from Jamestown, N.D., to New Richmond, Wis., on a moonless night. He determined he had four hours of fuel on board and that the flight would take approximately three hours and 15 minutes. The pilot told investigators that shortly after takeoff and climbing to an altitude of 7,000 feet, the engine developed problems. The pilot made a precautionary landing at the closest airport. On the ground the pilot determined his improper leaning of the fuel-air mixture at altitude caused the engine malfunction. He took off again.

As he approached Forest Lake, Minn., the pilot became apprehensive about the amount of fuel left and decided to make a precautionary landing. The engine quit during descent. He attempted to restart the engine but was not successful. There was a populated area and a lake between him and the airport. The pilot was worried he would not be able to glide to the airport, so he selected to ditch the aircraft in the lake to avoid injuring someone on the ground. The pilot was able to exit the aircraft in the water and swim to shore where he flagged down a police officer. The pilot told investigators that he had run out of fuel.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inaccurate fuel consumption calculations that resulted in fuel exhaustion and loss of engine power.

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