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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ERA13LA113
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 13, 2013 in Manteo, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/27/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA-34-200T, registration: N6537C
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The weather at the destination airport had reduced visibility and low drifting fog. According to the passenger, the flight was normal; the pilot acknowledged the reduced visibility report at the destination airport that was relayed by a pilot that landed ahead of the accident airplane. During the instrument approach, when the airplane descended through clouds, the pilot realized that the airplane was too far down the runway to safely land. The pilot then elected to enter a visual low traffic pattern rather than execute a missed approach procedure. However, the passenger stated that the barometric pressure was not reset during the approach. Thus, although the altimeters indicated that the airplane was at 410 ft mean sea level (msl) on the downwind leg, it was actually flying about 260 ft msl in the airport pattern before impacting water. Examination of the airplane wreckage revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have prevented normal operation. Although a prohibited medical drug was found the in the blood and urine of the pilot, the amounts found were not enough to be impairing. The pilot had a total flight experience of about 387 hours of which about 17 hours were in actual instrument meteorological conditions. The restricted visibility conditions at the time of the accident would have been conducive to the development of spatial disorientation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's attempted visual flight in instrument meteorological conditions while maneuvering at a low altitude in the traffic pattern, which resulted in spatial disorientation and impact with the water. Contributing was the pilot's lack of experience flying in actual instrument meteorological conditions.