Preliminary Report: Merlin hits trees on approach

 - January 31, 2007, 9:11 AM

SWEARINGEN MERLIN IIA, JACKSONVILLE, FLA., NOV. 27, 2003–A Swearingen Merlin IIA (N698X) registered to George C. Swanson, MD Ltd of Port Arthur, Texas was destroyed at 12:56 p.m. when it crashed into a wooded area while on an ILS approach to Craig Municipal Airport (CRG), Jacksonville, Fla. The pilot was killed and all four passengers were seriously injured. The aircraft was on an IFR flight plan operating in IMC and had departed Beaumont, Texas at approximately 10 a.m.

While on an ILS approach to Runway 32, the aircraft hit the trees about 1.8 miles from the airport. ATC had advised the pilot that the weather was below landing minimums at his intended landing site and had given him alternate airports in the area that had landing minimums. The passengers said the pilot mentioned fog at Jacksonville while en route but elected to attempt the approach.

Two of the four passengers were asleep during the approach. Two passengers said they heard trees striking the airplane and that it was foggy. The pilot did not say anything to the passengers to alert them to any impending danger. The recorded visibility at the time of the accident was a quarter mile, with a ceiling of 100 feet.