The private pilot was flying a night visual pattern to a non-towered airport in Lancaster, Texas.
Due to another airplane on final approach, he extended the downwind leg to create spacing. While on the extended final in a rural area with low lighting, he descended the airplane well below a proper glidepath to the runway and hit an unlit high-voltage power line about a mile from the runway.
After feeling a jolt, the passenger deployed the airframe’s parachute system. The airplane subsequently became suspended in a second set of power lines, and the pilot and passenger safely left the airplane. The passenger was seriously injured in the crash, which destroyed the airplane.
At the time of the accident, the precision approach path indicators (PAPI) for both runways were inoperative due to maintenance.
A notice to airmen (NOTAM) for the PAPI closure was active at the time of the accident, and the pilot was aware of the NOTAM.
The dark conditions and extended final likely created a visual illusion in which the pilot thought he was higher than he was. Without an operative PAPI, he had limited external references to assist him in maintaining a proper glidepath during the approach.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain a proper glidepath during a night visual approach, which resulted in impact with a power line. Contributing to the accident was an inoperative precision approach path indicator.
NTSB Identification: CEN16LA016
This October 2015 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.