Cessna crashes in fog

This September 2010 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: Cessna 182. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious. Location: Helena, Ga. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The commercial pilot, who was also a CFI, had logged 14,600 hours. His most recent logbook was not recovered, however his wife estimated that he had flown about 150 hours in the Cessna 182.

The private pilot-rated passenger was sitting in the left seat. He reported 200 flight hours but did not hold an instrument rating.

The aircraft was en route to an airport that did not have a control tower or weather reporting facilities, but did have a GPS approach. The pilot checked weather at surrounding airports and informed the air traffic controller that because of the weather he would need to fly the GPS approach into the airport. He was cleared for the approach. There were no more communications between the pilot and the controller.

Radar data showed that the airplane intercepted the final approach segment and descended without leveling off at the minimum descent altitude. The airplane crashed 2.74 miles from the runway, on a heading and course that were aligned with the runway. Weather at the airport was foggy at the time of the accident. Weather at nearby airports indicated that low ceilings and visibilities were prevalent in the area, with the weather gradually improving at the time of the accident. Although a pilot-rated passenger survived, he had no recollection of the accident.

An examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures. The autopsy on the pilot noted elevated glucose levels in the vitreous fluid and urine, and an elevated hemoglobin A1c level in the blood, indicating that the pilot was likely diabetic with poorly-controlled blood sugar. While the investigation was unable to determine that the pilot was impaired, he had recently eaten and his blood sugar may have been high enough to impair his cognitive performance. There were no indications that the pilot was aware of his diabetes. The pilot’s wife reported that her husband ate breakfast on the morning of the accident.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the aircraft in deteriorating weather conditions.

For more information: NTSB.gov NTSB Identification: ERA10FA471

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