This March 2009 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: DA-40. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Arcata, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed. What reportedly happened:
The pilot held a commercial certificate with ratings for airplane single engine and multiengine land, as well as a Type Rating for a CRJ-200, with limitations of Second-In-Command privileges only, and circling approaches in visual conditions only. He also held a CFI ticket. A resume he completed in October 2008 indicated he had accumulated 104 hours of night time, 513 hours of cross-country time, 88 hours of instrument time, and had 336 hours of experience with the Garmin G1000. The purpose of the flight was for the pilot to build time. He wanted to fly a twin-engine airplane across country but one was not available, so he rented the single-engine DA40 for the multi-day cross country flight. He told the airplane’s owner that he intended to fly from Florida to Las Vegas.
The pilot who gave the accident pilot a check-out in the DA 40 said he displayed good knowledge of the airplane, as well as good piloting skills.
The pilot and a passenger departed on the flight. However, instead of stopping in Las Vegas, he continued on to California. There was no record of the pilot acquiring a weather briefing relating to his destination on the day of the accident.
The pilot was approaching the accident airport at night after flying all day. ATC cleared him for the RNAV/GPS approach and advised that the rain intensity was moderate to heavy. The approach took the aircraft over the ocean. It was inbound when the controller advised the pilot that radar service was terminated, that he should report his IFR cancellation or down time to the controller on the controller frequency, and that he was then cleared to switch to the Arcata CTAF. The pilot acknowledged the clearance.
Although the controller cleared the pilot to switch frequencies, the controller continued to monitor the progress of the approach. About three minutes after he had cleared the pilot off of his frequency, the controller noticed that the airplane had descended to 1,400 feet, but that it had not yet reached the final approach fix, which had a published minimum crossing altitude of 2,100 feet. The controller made repeated attempts to contact the pilot over the Seattle Center frequency for the next 12 minutes. Unable to reach the pilot, the controller telephoned Oakland Radio and asked the Oakland Radio operator to contact the pilot at Arcata via Oakland Radio’s radio frequency there. That attempt was unsuccessful. The last radar Mode C radar target from the airplane was recorded at 300 feet above the ocean surface. Attempts to determine if the pilot landed safely were delayed because of confusion over the make and model of the aircraft. A few days later, parts of the wreckage of the airplane were found in the ocean. In the 42 hours immediately preceding the accident, the pilot had flown about 20 hours and 45 minutes, and crossed four time zones.
Probable cause: The pilot’s loss of control in turbulence. The pilot’s fatigue was a factor.
For more information: NTSB.gov