This September 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: Cessna 210. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Hilltop, Texas. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot, 57, had logged 1,276 hours, including 475 hours in the same make and model airplane. His logbook revealed that he had previously landed at the 0TE4 airport five times.
He was attempting to land at a private rural airport in dark night conditions. Witnesses estimated that the visibility was 3 to 5 miles in drizzle or light rain with overcast clouds, with the ceiling as low as 500 to 1,000 feet AGL. He initially attempted to activate the runway lighting via the pilot-activated system, however, the system was inoperable due to a recent lightning strike. An airport resident contacted the pilot on the Unicom radio and informed him that the lights were inoperable. Another resident attempted to illuminate the runway using headlights from an automobile.
The pilot said that he was going to attempt to land on runway 34 using a combination of automobile illumination and the airplane’s landing lights. He was west of the airport when he flew eastbound over the airport and entered a right turn for a landing on runway 34. Several witnesses said that he was not aligned with the runway and appeared to be too high to land. The witnesses said the airplane was approximately 50 to 150 feet above ground level when the pilot stated on the radio that he was initiating a go-around. The airplane then almost immediately started a descent, hit trees on the right side of the runway, and crashed into an unoccupied home.
An examination of the airframe and engine revealed no pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. The dark night conditions that surrounded the airport and the airplane’s acceleration due to a go-around would make the pilot susceptible to spatial disorientation. According to the FAA’s “Instrument Flying Handbook,” FAA-H-8083-15A, “A rapid acceleration…can create the illusion of being in a nose up attitude. The disoriented pilot will push the aircraft into a nose low, or dive attitude.”
Probable cause: The loss of control of the airplane in dark night light conditions due to spatial disorientation.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: CEN09FA601