December 2005 accident report

These December 2005 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: Piper Archer II.

Location: Butte, Mont.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot made the flight to go hunting. The pilot did not have an instrument rating. According to the pilot’s wife, before the flight he checked the weather through an online aviation weather service. The weather at the destination was forecast as the possibility of marginal VFR and IFR conditions due to fog, snow showers and low clouds. He departed in the late afternoon and climbed to 10,000 feet. He used his cell phone to call his hunting partner to tell him that he was above the clouds. He then asked if it was snowing in Butte. The hunting partner told him that it was not snowing, and that the sky was partly cloudy. The pilot said he hoped to arrive in about two and a half hours. He then called an FBO at the destination airport to check on a hangar reservation he had made earlier in the week. He advised the FBO that he would arrive around 6 p.m. There was no further reported communication with the pilot and he did not make use of any in-flight weather services.

The destination airport was in mountainous terrain. When the pilot arrived it was dark and the weather had deteriorated to one-half mile visibility, with freezing fog, moderate snow and a ceiling of 800 feet. The pilot inadvertently entered IFR conditions. During an attempt to reverse course the aircraft collided with trees on a steep snow-covered slope.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from the terrain during low-level maneuvering at night. Factors included the pilot’s improper in-flight decision to continue into an area that was forecast possibly to contain snow, fog and low ceilings, his failure to obtain a weather update while en route, mountainous terrain, and inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions while on a visual flight rules flight.

Aircraft: Beech A23.

Location: Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

Injuries: 2 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot held a commercial certificate and an instrument rating as well as advanced ground instructor and flight engineer ratings, and a mechanic certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings. He had a valid first-class medical certificate and 1,071 hours. According to the logbook, he had logged 6.6 hours in the accident aircraft make and model.

Witnesses at the departure airport reported that the accident airplane sounded like the exhaust system was leaking or that the muffler was loose. One witness commented on the noise to the pilot. The pilot replied that he was going to get it looked at, then took off.

About two hours later a witness heard a rough running engine, then saw the airplane pass overhead. The witness said the engine backfired then quit. The airplane rolled right, the nose dropped and the aircraft tumbled tail over nose for two or three revolutions before hitting the ground.

The witness reported that when he arrived at the accident site, there was no frost or ice on the wings.

An engine test run could not be conducted due to displacement of the crankshaft caused by the impact, however, examination of the components did not disclose any mechanical problems. No logbooks were located for the accident airplane.

Probable cause: A loss of engine power for undetermined reasons and the failure of the pilot to maintain an adequate airspeed while maneuvering following the loss of power, which resulted in a stall and subsequent spin.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Mobile, Ala.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was practicing. He allowed the aircraft to sink, then flared again. The stall warning horn went off and the plane touched down hard on the right main wheel. As the student pulled back on the yoke to further slow the airplane, he noticed a vibration.

A post-flight examination of the airplane revealed the center section of the airframe and firewall was buckled and the propeller bent aft.

Probable cause: The pilot’s improper landing flare, which resulted in a hard landing.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Algona, Iowa.

Injuries: 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who did not have an instrument rating, was attempting to takeoff at night for the return leg of a cross-country flight. There was no moon. The pilot reported that after he landed at the accident airport, he took a break of no more than 20 minutes, which included checking the weather. According to the pilot, at 7:15 p.m., the AWOS reported the weather as wind 310° at three knots with a visibility of seven statute miles in clear skies, with a temperature of –15° Celsius and a dew point of –18°. The pilot took off.

During the initial climb the aircraft entered a fog bank. The pilot reduced the power and attempted to hold the attitude while attempting a blind landing. The aircraft touched down hard, skidded, then flipped over.

At 7:35, the recorded weather was wind 310° at three knots but the visibility had deteriorated to 1/4 statute mile in light snow and the ceiling had dropped to overcast with a ceiling at 100 feet. Temperature was –14° with a dew point of –18°.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadvertent flight into unexpected instrument conditions leading to the nose over during the emergency landing.

Aircraft: Piper Super Cub.

Location: Skewentna, Alaska.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land a ski-equipped airplane on a frozen, snow-covered lake surrounded by trees.

After touchdown, the airplane continued to slide on the icy, hard-packed snow, then hit a stand of trees at the lake’s edge, substantially damaging both wings.

Probable cause: The pilot’s selection of an unsuitable landing area, which resulted in a collision with trees during the landing roll. Factors associated with the accident were the ice and snow-covered terrain.

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