Over-water approach ends badly

Aircraft: Piper Malibu. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Destin, Fla. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The instrument-rated pilot m who had logged 407 hours, was attempting to execute a GPS approach over water at night. The published minimums for the GPS approach were 460-foot ceiling and one-mile visibility.

Recorded air traffic control voice and radar data indicated that prior to the approach the pilot had turned to an approximately 180° heading and appeared to be heading in the direction of another airport. The controller reassigned the pilot a heading in order to intercept the final approach. The airplane was cleared for the RNAV/GPS 14 approach. When the aircraft was at approximately 200 feet MSL, radar contact was lost. The airplane was located in the water approximately 5,000 feet from the runway threshold.

A post-accident examination revealed that the left main landing gear was in the retracted position and the right main and nose landing gear were extended. Examination of the left main landing gear actuator revealed no mechanical anomalies. The pilot had likely just commanded the landing gear to the down position and the landing gear was in transit. It is further possible that, as the gear was in transit, the airplane hit the water in a left-wing and nose-down attitude and the left gear was forced to a gear-up position.

Probable cause: Controlled flight into water due to the pilot’s improper descent below the published minimum descent altitude.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA070

This November 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.

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