Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Minimal Experience

What’s appropriate in terms of experience may not be found in the FARs

The controller cleared the pilot for the approach, and two minutes later advised the pilot that he flew through the radial and asked if the pilot believed he was getting established on the inbound course. The pilot responded, "I'm working it." The controller then gave the pilot another heading to intercept the radial. The pilot acknowledged.

The center controller told the pilot that he was still cleared for the approach, that radar service was terminated, and to contact the Topeka tower. The pilot subsequently radioed the tower that he was doing a missed approach, and then asked if he could circle to land.

Just then, a tower controller saw the airplane break out of the clouds approximately 1,000 feet past the approach end of runway 31 and to its left. After he heard the pilot make his request to circle, the tower controller saw the airplane re-enter the clouds. The tower controller told the pilot to fly runway heading and await climb-out instructions.

The pilot then said he could do the GPS approach for runway 36. The tower controller told the pilot to fly the published missed approach and climb and maintain 4,000 feet.

Two pilots at TOP saw the airplane in level flight about halfway down runway 31. The landing gear was extended and altitude was about 200 to 300 feet above the runway. As the airplane neared the runway's end, the landing gear retracted and the airplane begin a slow climb into the clouds. The witnesses estimated the overcast ceiling to be at 500 feet above ground level (AGL) and the visibility to be 21⁄2 miles.

The pilot was handed back to a controller at Kansas City Center who instructed him to turn right towards an intersection, issued a clearance for the GPS approach to runway 31, and to maintain 3,600 feet until established on the approach.

About two minutes later, radar contact was lost and the controller could not raise the pilot on the radio. Several people in the vicinity of the accident site reported hearing the airplane fly overhead. They all reported hearing the ground impact and seeing a fireball.

The private pilot, age 35, held single-engine and multi-engine land airplane and instrument airplane ratings. His third- class medical was current. His logbook showed 438 total flying hours with 28.7 in multi-engine airplanes and 17.5 in the Beech 58. The logbook showed 50 hours of simulated instrument time and 11 hours in actual instrument conditions. Since passing his initial instrument proficiency check about six months before the accident, the pilot had logged seven-tenths of an instrument hour.

The NTSB said the probable cause of the accident was that the pilot failed to maintain control while maneuvering in instrument conditions and that the pilot's minimal experience flying in actual instrument conditions contributed to the accident.

Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, N.Y. 10602-0831.


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