Friday, September 02, 2005

Accident of the Week

This accident reports falls into the category of "What were they thinking"? A tad reminiscent of JFK, Jr: at night + IMC + over water + non-instrument rated pilot = 2 dead people that shouldn't be. Judge for yourself:
NTSB Identification: ATL05LA154
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, August 28, 2005 in Wrightsville Bh, NC
Aircraft: Samson Seawind 3000, registration: N88PS
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On August 28, 2005 at 0212 eastern daylight time, a Seawind 3000 experimental airplane, N88PS, registered to Samson Flying Service and operated by the private pilot, collided into the Atlantic Ocean about two miles off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The non-instrument-rated private pilot and the passenger received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The flight departed Wilmington, North Carolina, about 0208.

A review of preliminary radar data revealed a target with a transponder code of 1200 was detected by radar about 0208 at an altitude of 400 feet in the vicinity of Wilmington International Airport, Wilmington, North Carolina. The data showed the flight headed eastbound to the coast and climbed to approximately 1,200 feet. The flight then crossed over the coastline and continued eastbound briefly before its altitude fluctuated and it entered a 360-degree turn and descended rapidly into the ocean.

Composite debris from the airplane's fuselage and tail section was found floating on the surface; the remainder of the airplane was not recovered. A review of recorded weather data from Wilmington International Airport revealed at 0153 conditions were winds from 020 at 5 knots, visibility 8 statute miles, cloud conditions broken at 300 feet, temperature 23 degrees centigrade, dew point 22 degrees centigrade, altimeter setting 29.89 inches.
Now, don't get the IFR Pilot wrong. I'm sorry that these people were hurt. But doesn't this seem like an archetypical example of an accident that could completely have been avoided? Why are you taking off in the middle of the night into IMC conditions over water -- even in an amphib -- WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE AN INSTRUMENT RATING?

Look at the temperature/dew point spread: 1 degree. Geez, I think everyone learns in ground school that a difference of 4 degrees or less results in the substantial likelihood of fog. Some we're not just talking about a few low clouds creating IMC. We're talking about what was probably a substantial ground fog (even if it was listed as broken; I'm willing to bet that it was broken bordering on overcast).

By the way, with a bit of Googling, I found a picture of N88PS. She certainly was a beautiful aircraft, that's for sure.

It'll be intersting to see what the NTSB determines is the probable cause. Anyone want to lay odds on "S-P-A-T-I-A-L D-I-S-O-R-I-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N"?


Aaron Kinney said...

Thats horrible. I remember when this airplane first came out and I saw it in advertisements in magazines. Its a kit plane I believe.

I wonder if it was all pilot error (quite possible due to non-IFR rating) or if mechanical failure was partly to blame?

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Anonymous said...

i got an idea on this one. the pilot closed down a bar and ended up with a girl that night. she wanted to see the plane he'd gone on and on about -- or perhaps he promised her a ride. i can just hear, "it's beautiful this time of night over the water and the city lights are gorgeous. you just gott see it." he was gonna get laid if he couldve just landed back on dry land that night. alcohol probably didnt help the spatial disorientation one bit.