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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 58590
Last updated: 19 October 2020
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Time:13:31 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic PA34 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Piper PA-34-200T Seneca
Registration: N8047C
C/n / msn: 34-7670112
Fatalities:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Lavalette, near Huntington, WV -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:Lake in Hills, IL (3CK)
Destination airport:Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU)
The non-instrument-rated pilot departed Lake in the Hills Airport (3CK), Lake in the Hills, Illinois, on a cross-country trip to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Raleigh Durham, North Carolina, in the accident airplane without filing a flight plan; therefore, the planned and most of the actual flight routes could not be determined. Further, no record was found that the pilot obtained a weather briefing before the flight. In addition, postaccident weight and balance calculations indicated that, when the airplane took off, it exceeded the allowable weight and center of gravity limits. Another pilot at the airport advised the accident pilot to file a flight plan, recalculate the weight and balance, and obtain a weather briefing; however, no evidence indicates that the pilot did so.

Although visual meteorological conditions were recorded at RDU for the expected time of arrival, snow was forecast and instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) were observed for en route areas between 3CK and RDU for the time before, during, and after the flight. The noninstrument rated pilot exercised poor judgment by attempting a visual flight rules cross country flight, over mountainous terrain, without getting adequate weather information for the flight route, especially in January when snowy conditions are likely.

The accident occurred near Huntington Tri-State Airport (HTS), Huntington, West Virginia, which was about 350 nautical miles (nm) from 3CK and 10 nm southwest of the direct flight route between 3CK and RDU. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar data first recorded the airplane about 1244 central standard time at an altitude of about 9,700 feet about 50 nm southwest of HTS and then showed the airplane turning northeast toward HTS. According to FAA air traffic control (ATC) transcripts, about 1305, the pilot transmitted a “mayday” call to the HTS ATC tower and then advised, “I’m flying VFR [visual flight rules], low on fuel, and need to land.” Subsequently, the local controller asked the pilot if he was capable of instrument flight, and the pilot responded, “yes,” even though he was not instrument rated. (The airplane was equipped for instrument flight, and no evidence indicated that an instrument malfunction occurred.) About 8 minutes later, the controller asked the pilot how much fuel was on board, and he answered, “not much.” For about 10 minutes, the controller attempted to vector the airplane to HTS. Although the pilot stated several times that he had visual ground contact, he was not able to maintain it, and he never acknowledged that he had the airport in sight.

After about 12 minutes of providing detailed course headings and corrections to the pilot, the final approach controller was able to vector the airplane onto an extended final course for an airport surveillance radar approach to runway 30 at HTS. However, when the airplane was about 3 nm from the runway, it turned about 80 degrees off course to the left. The controller vectored the airplane back to the right, and the airplane turned so far to the right that it proceeded directly opposite the original inbound course. Additionally, the airplane descended below the minimum descent altitude, which the controller issued to the pilot, and which the pilot acknowledged, multiple times.

Weather conditions recorded at HTS, which was about 4 nm northwest of the accident site, included an overcast ceiling at 1,000 feet and a visibility of 3/4 statute mile in snow. Witnesses at the airport and in the vicinity of the crash site described the snowfall at the time of the accident as “heavy” and estimated the visibility to be between 1/4 and 3/4 mile.

The pilot did not request any in-flight weather assistance nor did he seek any ATC assistance before the situation had deteriorated. After the pilot contacted ATC, his communications became fragmented and intermittent, consistent with increased workload resulting from efforts to control the airplane in IMC. Although ATC attempted to guide the pilot to a landing at HTS using an airport radar surveillan
Probable Cause: (1) The pilot’s failure to perform adequate preflight planning and to use available in flight resources in a timely manner and (2) his decision to continue visual-flight-rules flight in instrument meteorological conditions despite his lack of an instrument rating and proficiency in instrument flying, which resulted in spatial disorientation and impact with terrain.


FAA register: 2. FAA:



(c) NTSB

Revision history:

31-Jan-2009 01:57 slowkid Added
02-Feb-2009 12:09 Anon. Updated
06-Jan-2010 10:45 harro Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
27-Nov-2016 16:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
21-Dec-2016 19:25 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
01-Dec-2017 11:38 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
01-Dec-2018 16:21 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Embed code]
01-Dec-2018 16:25 Aerossurance Updated [Time, Other fatalities, Location, Destination airport]

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