Lack of experience, poor decision turns fatal

Aircraft: Cessna 310. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor. Location: Orange, Mass. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot told investigators that he had become a pilot in 1989 and had logged about 500 hours. He had stopped flying for about seven years, then resumed about a year before the accident. The Cessna was purchased in May 2010.

The pilot held a single-engine private pilot ticket. At the time of the accident he did not hold a multi-engine rating or a multi-engine solo endorsement, but had logged approximately 50 hours of dual instruction in a twin-engine airplane. According to the pilot’s logbook, his last night flight was in 2000.

The pilot decided to do a previously-unplanned touch and go at the accident airport. He did not review any publications for the intended airport before the flight, therefore he was not familiar with the layout of the runways or the lighting system at the airport.

The airport is non-towered. None of the four runways were equipped with visual approach slope indicator lights.

The pilot intended to land on a runway that, according to published information, has an 850-foot displaced threshold. The published information warns about trees at the approach end of that runway.

When the airplane was on short final the pilot noticed white and red lights on the left side of the runway which he mistook for visual approach slope indicator lights. He wasn’t sure what color combination would indicate he was on the proper glide path. He noticed that the twin Cessna descended faster than the previous airplane he had flown.

As the airplane approached the runway, the lights appeared to flicker. The pilot applied full engine power to initiate a go-around but was not able to avoid crashing into trees. The airplane flipped on to its back. The pilot stated that there was less ambient light than he had anticipated and that there was haze in the air. He did not know about the trees at the approach end of the runway prior to crashing into them.

After the crash the airport’s runway and taxiway lighting system was inspected and it was discovered that one red lens cover had separated from a light assembly for the left side threshold displacement lighting system for runway 19. There were no other discrepancies noted.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain separation from trees during landing. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning and lack of recent night flight experience.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA102

This January 2011 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.


  1. says

    This story is all too common in general aviation. That is why we developed the course Risk & GA Aeronautical Decision Making, to hopefully make pilots more aware of risk, improve SA and ADM

  2. Vaughn S. Price says

    It would take a small book to describe this pilots lack in attitude, basic airmanship, common sense, inexperience, judgement, respect for rules, etc. I ran my Multi- engine course in a D-18-S twin beech, average time to Rating and Compentency 10 hours

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