January 2006 accident reports

These January 2006 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 Warrior.

Location: West Branch, Mich.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land the airplane. The touch down was normal but during the landing roll a deer ran onto the runway. The pilot did not have enough time to take evasive action and the deer was struck by the left wing of the plane, which jerked to the left but the pilot was able to keep it on the runway.

Probable cause: The aircraft’s encounter with a deer during landing.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Denver, Colo.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot taxied the airplane to the run-up area for runway 29R. According to the automated terminal information service (ATIS) report, the wind was from 300° at 25 knots, gusting to 34 knots. After positioning the airplane so the nose was on a heading of 210° for the engine run-up, the pilot cycled the flaps per the checklist. While the flaps were extended, a gust of wind pushed the airplane to a heading of 120° and the airplane flipped over.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to align the airplane’s nose into the direction of the wind while performing the pre-takeoff checklist. The gusty winds were a contributing factor.

Aircraft: Cessna 310.

Location: Destin, Fla.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: As he was attempting to land, the pilot lowered the landing gear and noted the three green DOWN AND LOCKED lights were illuminated. Soon after, he heard an unusual “thump” from beneath the airplane. He then noted that although the nose landing gear light was still green, the main gear lights had extinguished. The pilot proceeded with the landing. When the airplane touched down, the right main landing gear light illuminated but the left indicator light remained unlit. The pilot allowed the airplane to roll out and avoided braking and excessive steering inputs. About 200 feet from the taxiway turnoff, the left main landing gear collapsed. The left propeller, left wing and horizontal stabilizer struck the runway. The airplane slid about 150 feet before coming to a stop.

A post-accident examination by a mechanic revealed the down limit switch, which operates the landing gear mechanical stop, had malfunctioned. The switch was bent in the up position. The gear motor had continued to run, causing the gearbox to over-travel and pull on the landing gear rods, retracting the landing gear.

Probable cause: Malfunction of the down limit switch.

Aircraft: Piper Twin Comanche.

Location: Visalia, Calif.

Injuries: 4 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot, who held a commercial certificate, had logged more than 5,700 hours. He was the owner of the airplane and flew approximately 75 hours in the six months prior to the accident. He was attempting to land at night. As the aircraft turned from base leg to final approach it appeared to stall. There was not sufficient altitude to recover and the plane hit the ground nose first.

Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any mechanical issues that would lead to a stall. According to the medical examiner, the pilot’s toxicological results were positive for extremely high levels of doxylamine, a highly sedating over-the-counter antihistamine, often used in sleep aids such as Unisom Sleep Tabs. The medical examiner determined that the substance had likely accumulated due to daily use and/or use in excess of the maximum recommended dose. According to family members the pilot had been having trouble sleeping due to back pain and had been taking high doses of the over-the-counter sleep aid.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain airspeed during the landing approach, which resulted in a stall and uncontrolled descent. Contributing factors were the pilot’s impairment due to his prolonged use of a highly sedating over-the-counter sleep aid and fatigue due to lack of sleep.

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