Catalina Crash

I was waiting for my bus ride down to Avalon Sunday and watched as this helicopter brought in four loads of small plane wreckage. Apparently the pilot aborted a landing, I think Tues, and crashed on the east side of the island. As our bus pulled up, they were bringing in the cabin. This helicopter hardly came within 5 feet of the ground and just dropped the load and went back for more. The tail section is already on the ground. I think the plane was a Piper based on the tail section.

My condolences to their families.

Jim

Jim,

This sad accident took place when the weather at AVX was below minimums. (The MDA for the GPS-B approach is 2100 MSL or 498 AGL; the MDA for the GPS-A is higher.)

Roger

===============

IDENTIFICATION
Regis#: 3747U Make/Model: PA34 Description: PA-34 Seneca
Date: 12/24/2003 Time: 1820

Event Type: Accident Highest Injury: Fatal Mid Air: N Missing: N
Damage: Destroyed

LOCATION
City: SANTA CATALINA State: CA Country: US

DESCRIPTION
AIRCRAFT ON APPROACH, CRASHED 1 1/2 MILES SW OF AIRPORT, THE FIVE PERSONS
ON BOARD WERE FATALLY INJURED, AIRCRAFT WAS DESTROYED, SANTA CATALINA, CA

INJURY DATA Total Fatal: 5
# Crew: 1 Fat: 1 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Pass: 4 Fat: 4 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Grnd: Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:

WEATHER: AVX 241022PST SPCL 12004KT 1 1/4SM LIGHT RAIN MIST 100 FT OVERCAST

Folks,

This thread is now mixing two different events. Please be careful (specific) as you post & read…

Jim,

The http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20031231X02110&key=1NTSB preliminary report on this accident is now available. The radar data indicates that they never initiated a climb after passing the missed approach point at MAFPI.

Roger

Injuries are stated as minor for all three…pretty remarkable to clip a power pole and guywires and land in hay bails! I hope the report is accurate re “minor” injuries

IDENTIFICATION
Regis#: 742CD Make/Model: SR22 Description: SR-22
Date: 12/27/2003 Time: 2050

Event Type: Accident Highest Injury: Minor Mid Air: N Missing: N
Damage: Unknown

LOCATION
City: PILOT MOUNTAIN State: NC Country: US

DESCRIPTION
AIRCRAFT CLIPPED A POWER POLE AND GUY WIRE AND FLIPPED END OVER END AND
INTO HAY BALES, THREE PERSONS ON BOARD RECEIVED UNSPECIFIED INJURIES, PILOT
MOUNTAIN, NC

INJURY DATA Total Fatal: 0
# Crew: 1 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 1 Unk: Y
# Pass: 2 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 2 Unk: Y
# Grnd: Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:

WEATHER: KINT 722054Z 00000KT 10SM CLR 17/M08 A3026

The Los Angeles Times described that the crash occurred on the second attempt at the approach. It did not describe which approach it was.

However, the conditions were (1) 100’ overcast (2) 498’ or higher MDA (3) second attempt at the approach (4) after dark.

Makes you wonder why the flight was attempted, let alone the second attempt at the approach.

The accident is covered in more detail - with photo of the accident scene - in the members section.

Stephen,

In reply to: “Makes you wonder why the flight was attempted, let alone the second attempt at the approach.”

Agreed. It is a fact though that a number of approach accidents happen on second, third or even fourth approaches. The desire to get down seems to transcend rational behavior.
If you complete an approach correctly (i.e. needle(s) centered and at the MDA or DH at the appropriate point) and do not see the runway then there is no reason to suspect that you will see it the next time. It’s time to go elsewhere.
I think it is also very important to reach your destination (assuming it’s low IFR) with enough fuel so that you KNOW you have enough to get you to a wide open alternate. I suspect that many of the second, third etc. accidents happen because the pilot realizes he is low on fuel and just HAS to get down. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Fuel requirements as spelled out in the FARs are an absolute minimum. Always have more than you expect you will need.

In reply to:


If you complete an approach correctly (i.e. needle(s) centered and at the MDA or DH at the appropriate point) and do not see the runway then there is no reason to suspect that you will see it the next time. It’s time to go elsewhere.


An exception to this happens fairly frequently in Santa Barbara, which is right on the coast and subject to the marine layer and sometimes LIFR fog as well. Sometimes when the fog rolls in the vis (and RVR) will wax and wane in something of a rhythmic manner. You may start the approach with an RVR of 3000 and by the time you hit DH it is 1200 and you miss. OTOH, sometimes you may start the approach when it is below 2400 and lo and behold it is better by the time you hit DH and - whee - you’re home. This is a case where the flexibility of Part 91, being able to start the approach despite the RVR being below mins, is a good thing.

I used to fly a beat up Navajo on the midnight US Mail run to SMX and LAX many years ago. There were several times a year that we’d have to depart LAX back to SBA sans-mail, since SBA was below mins and we were Part 135. So we’d launch the empty Navajo (no seats - half fuel - a rocket!) back to SBA Part 91, shoot the ILS a couple times to “catch the wave” at the right time and we’d almost always get in.

A couple caveats. First of all, we NEVER busted minimums. I mean NEVER. Also, it was severe VFR above the typical 800 foot thick layer and everywhere inland, and we had a ton of totaly VFR alternates within a few minutes of flying. (Santa Ynez, 5 minutes over the foothills, Van Nuys, which rarely went under that early, and WJF in the desert, 20 minutes away, which hasn’t been below minimums in probably 20 years, if ever!) Also, we were flying about 120 hours a month and were about as current as one could be.

I saw a film clip once that illustrated how the fog actually laps up against the shore just like ocean waves. After all, air is a fluid as well. The clip showed the clouds over about a 20 minute period, sped up to play in 20 seconds or so. Amazing! Just like waves breaking on the beach. I’ll see if I can find it online somehwere, if it still exists.

But other than this somewhat esoteric exception, I agree with you. Normally, why go back and visit what you know is an unfriendly end to your approach?

This occurs in early morning in the east as well; usually associated with a high pressure system, calm winds, and radiational cooling at night. The fog often dissipates as the sun heats up the ground in early morning.
That is why knowing the etiology of the weather system goes a long way tp being able to judge whether below minimum conditions will persist for a long time or be expected to rapidly improve. This layer early morning fog with good clear conditions above help predict this.
The real danger is in trying to shoot approaches multiple times only to find nothing better with the weather and now you have eaten up your IFR fuel reserve.
So, whether to try more than one approach,as usual, does not have a blanket answer. It is all judgement based on the above. But the absolute “no-no” on ANY approach is to duck below minimums. The “siren song” to do so calls when, on the second or third approach, one gets a glimpse of the ground.
Don’t go for it!

Brian and Gordon,
No argument on either of your posts. Again, local knowledge rules. In my area when it’s below minimums it’s below minimums. Things don’t change too fast.
I do think however that in general, it’s best not to continue to try if the first approach was flown correctly and you were clearly in the clag at minimums. I also think the point about having enough fuel to ALWAYS be able to reach a solid gold alternate can’t be emphasized enough.

Jerry:
You are right. Most of the time the conditions as outlined above are NOT the cause of the LIFR. On the other hand, there are days when it is VFR at one end of the runway and below mins at the other end. I had a situation like that just 2 months ago. within 30 minutes it was clear and vis greater than 10 miles. But 9 times out of 10 below minimum weather is not only temporary, it can be widespread for hundreds of miles so the fuel issue is key. Many flights in the east under warm front conditions with low IFR cannot be legally flown because the closest alternate exceeds the available fuel.
Those days, not only do you NOT shoot a second approach, you do not fly at all!

Roger,

Wow… if an ATP / CFI can make a mistake like that, I could too, in a heartbeat. It’s a somber reminder that we can’t afford to let our guard down - complacency can kill indiscriminately.

  • Mike.

My prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the families of these pilots. Seeing the other posts here, I feel that I am not the only one who got a sickening knot in the stomach from reading the NTSB report and studying the plate. (Thank you, Roger)

I did ask myself how I could keep from ever having this happen to me. I think others here might offer some better answers than mine, but here goes:

Just my opinion, but it seems that the pilot (and instructor) did clearly miss the MAP (otherwise they would have executed the missed procedure, why didn’t he climb? He didn’t think he had to, yet) and it would be just a few moments at 2100’ from there to impact. I take at least two lessons away from this:

Lesson 1) Assuming the accident aircraft was navigating only with its VOR or VOR/DME (and didn’t have a GPS of some type on board) my Cirrus aircraft would give me an immense advantage with respect to the apparent loss of precise positional awareness. I haven’t looked on the 430, but I assume the approach and MAP is there and I would have known and would have climbed. I am therefore flying a safer aircraft in that regard. This is why I have an SR22. That does NOT mean I am over relying on the plane, it simply means I have a better tool to keep track of where I am and that is a HUGE advantage when in IMC.

Lesson 2+)Lesson 1 notwithstanding, always, always, always know exactly, precisely how to identify the MAP and know the missed procedure. Look at your sectional in advance and see what kind of bad s@#t you will hit if you don’t execute the procedure properly. Know the area. Don’t take the missed procedure for granted. It is there for a reason. Look at the sector altitudes. Study the plate. When in doubt, assuming you are on the approach, immediately climb and execute the missed approach procedure.

I can speak somewhat to this point as on a recent flight, in night IMC, rain and some mod. turb., I was given an off-airway vector to a hold for an ILS. I turned to the heading and then realized I did not know the terrain (I never planned to fly that routing, but that’s what ATC wanted). After a few seconds I realized how easily it was to get killed flying IMC, and returned to the airway until I had the sectional out and the terrain digested. It turns out I was safe at my current altitude (the airway MEA), but the relief I felt while plowing through the rain and blackness knowing that a granite cloud was not going show up unexpectedly was indescribable. The same experience happened at the holding fix. I was able to clearly see the published hold on the MFD and stay on the protected side, even with a 40kt xwind at my holding altitude that kept pushing me to the wrong side of the race track. It was the first time I have ever felt comfortable holding and that was because I knew exactly where I was. And again, this in driving rain, turbulence, and at night.

What have others learned here?

In reply to:


Wow… if an ATP / CFI can make a mistake like that, I could too, in a heartbeat.


Mike, in general I completely agree. (a) Every accident report should convey a sense of humility about this whole enterprise, and the consequences of inattention, and (b) like you, I’m sobered to realize that if so experienced a pilot could forget to climb at the MAP, then obviously I’m even more likely to make the same mistake.

The one part of the scenario that doesn’t give me the “there but for the grace of God” feeling is starting a non-precision approach with real-time reported conditions so far below minimums. (Real-time report was 100 ft overcast, 1.25sm vis. MDA was 498ft AGL) My main benchmark for this came last summer when I was hoping to visit friends on Nantucket. Unlike Catalina, Nantucket (a) has an ILS, with a DH of 200ft AGL, and (b) is virtually flat. But the ATIS as I was coming in was identical to this Catalina report – OVC 001 / 1.25 vis – and I thought, I don’t need to get there that badly. So, with my wife and one son in the plane, we turned around while over the ocean and went instead to Norwood, where the sky was clear and we had some friends nearby.

I think the proper response to almost any crash report is “there but for the grace of God…” But, as a far less experienced flyer than this pilot, I know that in comparable – indeed, more favorable – circumstances I decided not to accept this particular risk. There are many other risks that my lack of experience exposes me to, of course – usually without my comprehending just how exposed I have been. Indeed, with each hundred hours’ experience, I have an increasing “there but for…” feeling about having survived risks I hadn’t fully appreciated in each earlier chapter of the experience-developing process. But I also wonder, in an informal-polling sense, how many Copa pilots think they would have begun the Catalina approach. My personal minimum is not to begin an ILS if the real-time ceiling is below 400ft. (Often in training, and three times in real life, I’ve flown an ILS right down to the absolute minimum and broken out with the runway right in my face. But on my own I’ve not started one with a reported at-minimums celing, fwiw.)

In reply to:


Mike, in general I completely agree. (a) Every accident report should convey a sense of humility about this whole enterprise, and the consequences of inattention, and (b) like you, I’m sobered to realize that if so experienced a pilot could forget to climb at the MAP, then obviously I’m even more likely to make the same mistake.

The one part of the scenario that doesn’t give me the “there but for the grace of God” feeling is starting a non-precision approach with real-time reported conditions so far below minimums. (Real-time report was 100 ft overcast, 1.25sm vis. MDA was 498ft AGL) My main benchmark for this came last summer when I was hoping to visit friends on Nantucket. Unlike Catalina, Nantucket (a) has an ILS, with a DH of 200ft AGL, and (b) is virtually flat. But the ATIS as I was coming in was identical to this Catalina report – OVC 001 / 1.25 vis – and I thought, I don’t need to get there that badly. So, with my wife and one son in the plane, we turned around while over the ocean and went instead to Norwood, where the sky was clear and we had some friends nearby.

I think the proper response to almost any crash report is “there but for the grace of God…” But, as a far less experienced flyer than this pilot, I know that in comparable – indeed, more favorable – circumstances I decided not to accept this particular risk. There are many other risks that my lack of experience exposes me to, of course – usually without my comprehending just how exposed I have been. Indeed, with each hundred hours’ experience, I have an increasing “there but for…” feeling about having survived risks I hadn’t fully appreciated in each earlier chapter of the experience-developing process. But I also wonder, in an informal-polling sense, how many Copa pilots think they would have begun the Catalina approach. My personal minimum is not to begin an ILS if the real-time ceiling is below 400ft. (Often in training, and three times in real life, I’ve flown an ILS right down to the absolute minimum and broken out with the runway right in my face. But on my own I’ve not started one with a reported at-minimums celing, fwiw.)


Jim,
Rambling stream-of-consciousness Alert!
You make your points eloquently, as always. I, too, would not have started an approach that was below minimums – I’ve always called off such approaches in favor of a friendly alternate. However, over time, my own personal minimums have changed and become less conservative. Today, if I’m going into an airport in generally benign conditions (density altitude OK, wind reasonable, non-mountainous, I’m very current, etc.), I’d attempt an ILS if conditions were at or above minimums. I’ve landed perhaps five times that way in the last three years, and gone missed in anger three times.
But it wasn’t always so. My ILS minimums started out much higher, and got more “aggressive” as experience and confidence were built. There lies the rub.
My “There but for the Grace of God go I” feeling has less to do with the specifics of that one pilot’s mistakes than the overall gestalt of what got him there, and may get me there, too, if I don’t balance confidence with enough humility. The nature of pilots is to push the envelope. We must do so, or we’d never graduate beyond the gentle-breeze-straight-down-the-runway-landings we were authorized to do when we started flying (“10 knot crosswind, gusting to 13? Fuhgeddaboudit!”).
I will NEVER be “good enough” to fly below minimums, which I believe was your point. But will I ever be ‘good enough’ to START an approach that is reporting less than minimums, just to check it out? If the fog rolls in and out in waves, the way Gordon described? Maybe one day, although I hope I remember this story. Will I be good enough to never make a mistake like forgetting to climb as called for in the Missed Procedure? I know I’m not. I just hope I don’t goof really badly at the wrong time.
By the way, right now I can’t IMAGINE why I would ever decide to “check out” an approach when ATIS is advertising below-minimum conditions; but I’m sure there was a time that the accident pilot felt the same way, yet he did it last Saturday.
My brother-in-law is among the best pilots I’ve ever known, in almost every way I can measure. He is a real enthusiast, too, with plenty of training, aircraft building, experience, etc. under his belt. He stopped flying a bit over a year ago - sold his beautifully self-built RV-6 - because yet another pilot whom he knew and respected made a fatal mistake.

Everything about flying is a balance, a compromise. But if I mess this one up in the wrong direction - the confidence/humility balance - I could die. My kids think I’m old, but they concede that I’m too young to die. I plan to keep learning, but gradually enough to stay alive.

  • Mike.

Jim,

I’m totally in the boat with you regarding the circumstances in which I would initiate an approach - with one exception, that being instructional flight.

The instructor that I use for recurrent training I believe is excellent. She has said that she wants to take me out and do an approach where we know it’s below minimums, and will have to do a missed. She’s already had me do an almost zero-zero ILS (VMC, with foggles). When we discussed doing these things, I questioned why, considering that I don’t plan to get myself into those circumstances in the first place. Her comment regarding an instructional flight where we knew we’d have to do the missed was “You never know…the conditions could change and do you want the first time you experience a missed in actual to be with me, or by yourself?” I asked about the near zero-zero, and said I’d never do it under any circumstances. Her response was “Never? What if you find yourself in a fuel crisis, engine trouble, iced-over windshield etc.? Do you want to at least have this as an option?” Yes, I might well use the 'chute under these circumstances. My point is that on an instructional flight, I wouldn’t necessarily view what they tried to be a problem. Of course, not executing the approach properly is an entirely different matter.

What do you, or others, think?

Andy

Mike, you’re winning the eloquence derby. Very insightful, and I can’t disagree. To me, this is the heart of it:

In reply to:


The nature of pilots is to push the envelope. We must do so, or we’d never graduate beyond the gentle-breeze-straight-down-the-runway-landings we were authorized to do when we started flying


The only way to improve, as you know and say, is to keep trying new things. This is the meaning of the old saw about flying being a contest between how fast you gain experience versus how fast you use up luck. The line between “situations that are increasingly challenging and so develop your skills,” and “situations that are dangerous and which you might not survive” is often clear only in retrospect. For instance, in my own case: I understand much more about thunderstorms, having been vectored almost into the middle of one (over upstate New York) three-plus years ago. But the cost of that understanding could have turned out to be fatally high.

I have talked about this many times with William Langewiesche – who literally grew up in airplanes, with his father, Wolfgang, and who now is my colleague at the Atlantic. His attitude boils down to: keep learning, keep trying, keep being obsessed by details and competence. But also remember that it is a dangerous activity and in the end a lot of it comes down to fate and luck.

Mike:
Well stated but I do not think it has to be that “complicated”. This is not a situation of whether you are “good enough” to do certain things. It is a matter of practicality and common sense. No matter how “good you are” or how recent your training, you are not going to be able to land in below minimum weather. Why? because you still have to see the runway to land. TERPsters have spent a good deal of time designing that approach you are flying. If they say you can only get to 400 feet and the weather is 100 feet, you can be Chuck Yeager himself and you are not going to be able to land.
Experience teaches you to be cautious and hopefully teaches you to be rigid and stick to the guidelines of the approach… Following the procedure PROPERLY and do not bust minimums and every approach will be safe. It is silly to shoot an approach when you know the ceiling is below minimums because, once you get to DH/MDA that is as low as you can go; period. The only exception is if you do not believe the reported weather for some reason or you expect the weather to be better by the time you are at DH/MDA. The fog scenarios we discussed a few days ago MAY fall into that category but usually it is best not to start the approach.
No matter how bad the weather is, if you do not bust minimums and know how to fly the airplane, you will not hit anything.
The REAL QUESTION: Why did this very experienced pilot go below minimums? Basic IFR training teaches us to fly to DH/MDA, look up, if you cannot see the runway, go around and go somewhere else in this case. My guess: His vast experience probably influenced him to be too cocky and to think he could go below minimums when someone with less experience could not.
BIG MISTAKE!

Hello Mike:

I just wanted say how much I appreciated your post about this terrible accident, I am very new to flight training and a lot of the topics that I have read in this forum has helped me to form the right attitude about setting my own personal minimums right now. I thank GOD for all of you and I will pray that the protecting angels guard you from all harm, remember that inner voice or as most people will say “something told me” it is real so listen to it!