About three months before the accident, the pilot received about nine hours of flight instruction, including completion of an instrument proficiency check, in the Socata TBM 700.
The accident flight was a cross-country flight operated under instrument flight rules (IFR).
Radar track data depicted the flight proceeding on a west-southwest course at 15,800 feet mean sea level (msl) as it approached the destination airport in Ridgway, Colo.
The flight was cleared by the air traffic controller for a GPS approach, passed the initial approach fix, and, shortly afterward, began a descent as permitted by the approach procedure.
The track data indicated that the flight became established on the initial approach segment and remained above the designated minimum altitude of 12,000 feet msl. Average descent rates based on the available altitude data ranged from 500 feet per minute (fpm) to 1,000 fpm during this portion of the flight.
At the intermediate navigation fix, the approach procedure required pilots to turn right and track a north-northwest course toward the airport.
The track data indicated that the flight entered a right turn about one mile before reaching the intermediate fix. As the plane entered the right turn, its average descent rate reached 4,000 fpm.
The flight subsequently tracked northbound for nearly 1-1/2 miles. During this portion of the flight, the plane initially descended at an average rate of 3,500 fpm, then climbed at a rate of 1,800 fpm.
It subsequently entered a second right turn. The final three radar data points were each located within 505 feet laterally of each other and near the approximate accident site location.
The average descent rate between the final two data points (altitudes of 10,100 feet msl and 8,700 feet msl) was 7,000 fpm.
About the time that the final data point was recorded, the pilot informed the air traffic controller that the airplane was in a spin and that he was attempting to recover. No further communications were received from the pilot.
The airplane subsequently hit the surface of a reservoir at an elevation of about 6,780 feet and came to rest in 60 feet of water, killing all five people aboard.
The available meteorological data suggested that the airplane encountered clouds (tops about 16,000 feet msl or higher and bases about 10,000 feet msl) and was likely operating in IFR conditions during the final 15 minutes of the flight.
However, no determination could be made regarding whether the clouds that the airplane descended through were solid or layered.
In addition, the data suggested the possibility of both light icing and light turbulence between 12,000 feet msl and 16,000 feet msl along the flight path.
Although the pilot appeared to be managing the flight appropriately during the initial descent, it could not be determined why he was unable to navigate to the approach fixes and maintain control of the airplane as he turned toward the airport and continued the descent.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s loss of control during an instrument approach procedure, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and entering an inadvertent aerodynamic stall and spin.
NTSB Identification: CEN14FA167
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.