This December 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 Malibu. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Hayden, Colo. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilots were husband and wife. Both held airplane single-engine land and instrument ratings. The husband was pilot-in-command at the time of the accident. He had a private pilot certificate with a total flight time of 1,967 hours, of which 823 hours were accrued in the Piper. The wife held a commercial pilot certificate and has logged about 2,067 hours, of which 798 hours were accrued in the Malibu. She was in the right seat, and it was she who made all the radio calls.
They were on their way home from having the airplane’s annual inspection done. There was reduced visibility and clouds were in the vicinity of the airport at the time of the accident.
The pilot requested the ILS approach. Radar data showed the airplane proceeding outbound for the procedure turn. The pilot reported that they were having trouble extending the landing gear and stated, “We’re trying to turn back in and do our gear here all at the same time.” Shortly thereafter, the wife reported that they had extended the gear and had “three good, three green lights, so we’re hoping the gear is down.” The pilot also said, “we are now turned inbound.”
The pilot was told to contact unicom. The unicom operator said that she heard the pilot say that they were “coming in.” Radar data indicated the airplane crossed the localizer at almost a 90° angle and continued turning right until it started to intercept the localizer. The data then indicated that the airplane made a left turn away from the localizer that continued until the airplane disappeared from radar. During the turn the airplane’s altitude and airspeed varied from 9,200 feet and 85 knots to 10,200 and 152 knots. The last radar contact showed the airplane at 8,400 feet and 38 knots.
An examination of the wreckage showed both wing flap jackscrews retracted and the landing gear actuators extended. The landing gear control switch was in the down position and the emergency gear extension knob was pulled out to full travel.
Probable cause: The pilot’s loss of situational awareness while maneuvering in adverse weather conditions, resulting in spatial disorientation.
For more information: NTSB.gov