The 387-hour instrument-rated pilot, who had just 17 hours in actual IMC, and a passenger were flying in a Piper Seneca in IFR conditions near Manteo, N.C. The weather at the destination airport at the time of arrival was IFR because of reduced visibility with low drifting fog.
According to the passenger, the flight was normal and the pilot acknowledged a reduced visibility report at the destination airport relayed by a another pilot who landed ahead of the Seneca.
The pilot initiated an instrument approach. When the airplane descended through clouds, he realized the plane was too far down the runway to safely land, but rather than execute the missed approach, he entered a low traffic pattern.
According to the passenger, the pilot had not reset the altimeter to the correct barometric pressure prior to the approach. That meant that although the altimeter indicated that the airplane was at 410 feet MSL on the downwind leg, the airplane was actually flying about 260 feet MSL. The Piper came down in water next to the airport.
The NTSB attributed the accident to the pilot’s attempted visual flight in instrument meteorological conditions while maneuvering at a low altitude in the traffic pattern, which resulted in spatial disorientation and impact with the water. The pilot’s lack of experience flying in actual instrument meteorological conditions was a contributing factor.:
NTSB Identification: ERA13LA113
This January 2013 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.