The pilot stated that after takeoff the flight proceeded IFR towards the destination airport, The Florida Keys Marathon Airport in Marathon, Florida.
He cancelled his IFR clearance, and performed the pre-landing checklist. While on the base leg over water during the dark night, he became distracted by the failure of the landing light.
With the landing gear and flaps extended for landing, but the power set to 15 inches of manifold pressure, he did not recognize the Beech S35 was descending.
When the plane hit the water he thought they were at 1,000 feet.
He also noted that he attempted to activate the runway lights using the common traffic advisory frequency, but stated he could not see them. In hindsight he said he must have been too low at that time to see the runway lights.
According to the County of Monroe Assistant Director of Airports, the runway lights at The Florida Keys Marathon Airport come on automatically at night and remain on “step 1.”
Being a 14 CFR Part 139 airport, a complete night inspection is performed each Friday and Monday, and each working day in the morning a continuous inspection is performed on the runway lighting circuit.
As noted in the Daily Self Inspection Reports, the airfield runway lights were functioning properly during the course of the weekend and there were no issues with the runway lighting system. The runway end identifier lights for runway 7 were out of service at that time.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s distraction in the cockpit while on a visual approach over water during a dark night, resulting in the airplane descending until impact with the water.
NTSB Identification: ERA14CA175
This March 2014 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.