Instrument approach goes bad

This December 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: Beech Bonanza. Location: Warrenton, Va. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot was conducting a GPS approach to his home airport at night in instrument meteorological conditions. The weather at the time of the accident was reported as overcast at 300 feet and one mile visibility in fog. The pilot had logged 683 hours, including 67 in actual instrument conditions. He had completed his most recent instrument proficiency check five months before the accident, during which he performed four instrument approaches in a simulator. None of the simulator approaches were to the pilot’s home airport. He then accumulated 8.4 hours of actual instrument flight time but did not log any approaches. The airplane crossed the final approach fix at the required altitude of 2,200 feet then continued a gradual descent, going below the minimum descent altitude for the approach. The airplane crashed in trees four miles from the runway on the same heading as the inbound course for the approach. Examination of the airplane and engine revealed no mechanical anomalies.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to follow the published instrument approach procedure and his failure to maintain the minimum descent altitude resulting in a collision with trees and terrain. The instrument meteorological conditions and the darkness were factors.

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