Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious. Location: Denton, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The commercial pilot and flight instructor received clearance to fly the ILS approach to runway 18. Weather was reported as 200-feet ceiling and 1/2-mile visibility with fog.
An observer, who sat in a rear seat, recalled that the airplane entered a fog bank during the approach. The observer saw airport lighting to the airplane’s left, which was about the time the pilots realized that they were not aligned with the runway.
Rather than fly the missed approach procedure, the pilot attempted to circle to runway 36 despite the weather being below the published minimums for the published circle to land procedure.
The published minimums for the circling approach are 1,160 feet MSL and with one mile visibility. The field elevation is 642 feet, which would put the circling aircraft at 518 feet above terrain.
As the airplane set up to land on runway 36, the pilots realized that there was insufficient runway remaining to safely land. Instead of executing the published missed approach procedure the pilots made a left turn low to the ground, resulting in a crash.
The weather was so poor that it took responders several hours to locate the airplane. Finally, a cell telephone belonging to one of the pilots was “pinged” and responders were able to obtain a location and the airplane was found shortly thereafter.
Probable cause: The pilot’s controlled flight into terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude in instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to perform a circling maneuver in weather below circling minimums instead of flying the missed approach instructions.
NTSB Identification: CEN12LA109
This December 2011 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.