Failure to line up with runway fatal

This April 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Piper Lance.
Location: Andrews, N.C.
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The night flight had been conducted under IFR rules and on an instrument flight plan. As he approached the airport for landing, the pilot canceled the instrument flight plan because the weather was VFR. The passenger, a pilot who had logged at least 1,000 hours, said the pilot commented that he had the approach lights in view as they approached the 5,000-foot runway. A short time later the passenger noted that the airplane was not lined up with the runway and asked the pilot, “Why are we off to the left of the runway?”

The pilot replied, “Because we are going to crash.” The airplane hit power lines to the left of the runway. There was an electrical flash followed by a fire as the airplane hit the ground. Investigators determined that the airplane never touched the runway or the grass to the left of the runway before hitting the power lines.

Probable cause: The pilot’s misjudgment of distance and altitude during a night approach for landing, resulting in a collision with wires and the ground.

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