Final Report: VFR approach in dense fog kills King Air pilot

 - May 8, 2008, 7:00 AM

BEECH KING AIR 200, PIQUA, OHIO, AUG. 24, 2001–The King Air crashed, killing the sole-occupant pilot, as the ATP-rated pilot attempted a VFR approach to Piqua Airport in dense fog on his way to pick up a passenger for a scheduled charter flight.

The pilot of N18260 was communicating with a pilot at the airport who was using a handheld radio. The King Air pilot reported he was not able to see the runway lights due to ground fog and continued to circle the airport for about 20 min. The pilot on the ground stated the airplane appeared to be about 1,500 ft above the ground when it circled and then entered a downwind for Runway 26. According to his statement, he was unable to hear or see the airplane as it flew away from the airport but was able to hear it during its final approach.

The pilot on the ground reported that the airplane’s engines sounded normal, then he heard the “terrible sound of impact“ followed by silence. When he arrived at the accident site, the airplane was fully engulfed in flames. An investigation revealed the airplane had hit 80-ft-tall trees, located about 2,000 ft from, and on a 240 deg course to, the approach end of Runway 26. Several freshly broken tree limbs and trunks, up to 15 in. in diameter, were observed strewn along the debris path, which measured 370 ft.

Examination of the wreckage by investigators did not reveal any pre-impact malfunctions. The weather reported at an airport about 19 miles south-southeast of the accident site included a visibility of 1.75 mi, in mist, with clear skies and a temperature and dew point of 17 deg C. Witnesses in the area of the accident site generally described conditions of “thick fog,“ and a resident who lived across from the accident site stated visibility was “near zero“ and he could barely see across the road.

The NTSB determined the probable causes to be the pilot’s improper decision to attempt a visual landing in IMC and his failure to maintain adequate altitude/clearance, resulting in an in-flight collision with trees. An additional factor of ground fog was also cited.