This November 2008 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 172. Injuries: 2 Minor. Location: Groton, Conn. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: A student pilot and flight instructor were practicing night approaches. The runway measured 4,000 feet, with the threshold displaced 205 feet due to trees. A 3.5° Precision Approach Path Indicator normally provided visual glide slope information, however a NOTAM was in effect that indicated it was out of service due to tree growth. The student and CFI stated that they weren’t relying upon the PAPI for correct glide slope information.
The first two approaches went well. During the third approach the student lost sight of the runway. The flight instructor stated that he was looking at the airspeed indicator, and when he looked back up he saw only trees. The airplane hit the trees. Because the aircraft was equipped with airbags, neither the pilot or instructor were seriously injured during the accident.
Probable cause: The student pilot’s failure to maintain a proper descent profile to avoid trees during the night visual approach and the flight instructor’s inadequate oversight.
For more information: NTSB.gov