The pilot reported that, while making a straight-in approach to a private airport in Plato Center, Illinois, just after dusk, but before dark, he attempted to activate the pilot-controlled lighting (PCL), but was unsuccessful.
He continued toward the airport, and while maneuvering for landing, he lost sight of the airport. He didn’t regain visual reference of the airport during the landing descent, and the airplane hit a fence adjacent to the runway.
The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage.
The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.
The airport owner reported that the PCL antenna required line-of-sight with the aircraft to operate the PCL system. Due to the antenna’s position and hangars on the airport, the antenna did not receive signals from the southeast, the direction from which the airplane was approaching.
He added that, because the airport was private, he could not issue a NOTAM to describe the operation of the runway lights.
Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to continue to land without visual reference to the airport in low light conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inability to activate the private airport’s pilot-controlled lighting system due to its configuration.
NTSB Identification: GAA18CA069
This December 2017 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.