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: Piper Tomahawk. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Smithfield, R.I. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot had logged more than 1,400 hours, including more than 800 hours in the Tomahawk. He had an instrument rating and the passenger held a pilot certificate. The airplane was on a night flight in visual meteorological conditions. The pilot requested a GPS approach. At 1,900 feet MSL and prior to the final approach fix, the pilot was cleared for the practice approach and a frequency change was approved. There was no further communication.
Radar data showed the flight on a ground track associated with the approach and in a steady descent from the final approach fix to an altitude of 500 feet MSL, which put the airplane 80 feet above ground and below the minimum descent altitude. The airplane collided with trees approximately 2/3 mile from the threshold of the runway and burst into flames.
Probable cause: The improper descent below the published minimum descent altitude during the approach, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.
For more information: NTSB.gov