Monday, October 21, 2019

Piper PA-32-301 Saratoga, N534Z: Fatal accident occurred October 20, 2019 near Raleigh-Durham International Airport (KRDU), Morrisville, Wake County, North Carolina

Harvey Partridge was piloting the plane he and his wife, Pat were in when something went wrong and the plane went down in a state park near the Raleigh-Durham airport October 20th. The NTSB is investigating.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Greensboro, North Carolina
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Raleigh, NC
Accident Number: ERA20FA014
Date & Time: 10/20/2019, 1921 EDT
Registration: N534Z
Aircraft: Piper PA32
Injuries:2 Fatal 
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On October 20, 2019, about 1921 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-301, N534Z, was destroyed following a collision with terrain in Raleigh, North Carolina, while on approach to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), Morrisville, North Carolina. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to a corporation and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight originated at Columbus Airport (CSG), Columbus, Georgia about 1605 and was destined for RDU.

According to preliminary air traffic control data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot initially requested the RNAV GPS Runway 5R approach to RDU; however, due to local traffic he was told to expect the RNAV GPS Runway 32 approach. The pilot subsequently reported that he had GPS and autopilot issues and the controller subsequently provided radar vectors to NOSIC waypoint for the straight-in approach to runway 32. The controller asked the pilot if he had NOSIC identified, and the pilot reported that he did. The pilot continued the approach and intercepted the final approach course inbound for runway 32. The pilot reportedly "broke out" of the clouds on a 7 mile final at an altitude of 1,800 ft mean sea level (msl). The controller cleared the pilot for the visual approach to runway 32, and the pilot responded that he saw "lots of lights" but he did not see the runway. Between 6 and 7 miles from the runway, at 1,300 ft msl, the controller issued the pilot a low altitude alert with instructions to climb to 2,000 ft. The pilot responded that he thought he had the airport beacon in sight and the controller again cleared him for the visual approach to runway 32; the pilot did not respond. About 5 miles from the runway, at 1,400 ft, the pilot asked, "How am I doing on altitude?" The controller responded that he was "fine" and confirmed 1,400 ft. The controller again asked the pilot if he had the runway in sight, and stated that if he did, he was cleared for the visual approach. The pilot responded that he only could identify the beacon, so the controller told him that he would turn up the intensity of the runway lights. When the airplane was between 3 and 4 miles on final and at 1,000 ft, the controller again asked him if he had the runway in sight, and the pilot responded that he believed it was coming into view. The pilot was directed to contact RDU tower and communication was established with tower when the airplane was about 1,000 ft msl and 3 miles from the runway. The tower controller asked the pilot if he had the runway in sight; the pilot confirmed that he did. The controller then asked the pilot if he was on a 2-mile final; the pilot did not respond. No further communications were received from the pilot and radar contact was lost. The wreckage was subsequently located about 1000 on October 21.

The airplane crashed in a thickly-wooded area within the confines of the 5,579-acre William B. Umstead State Park. The wreckage path was about 400 ft long and about 50 ft wide, oriented on a heading of 320ยบ. The main wreckage was located about 1.2 miles southeast of the runway 32 threshold. The initial point of impact was a 100-ft-tall pine tree, and a large section of the right wing remained lodged near the top of the tree. There was no fire. The engine was found separated from the airframe and the propeller assembly was separated from the engine. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to the flight control surfaces. All aircraft components and structure were accounted for at the accident site.

The pilot, who co-owned the airplane, held an FAA private pilot certificate with ratings for multiengine land, single engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on December 13, 2017. At that time, he reported 4,000 hours of flight experience.

Reported weather conditions at RDU, at 1951, included overcast clouds at 1,400 ft, greater than 10 miles visibility, and no precipitation. Sunset occurred at 1831 and evening civil twilight ended at 1857.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N534Z
Model/Series: PA32 301
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: KRDU, 435 ft msl
Observation Time: 1951 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Light and Variable / , Variable
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 1400 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.9 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Columbus, GA (CSG)
Destination: Raleigh, NC (RDU)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None 
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.854167, -78.757778 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email 

Harvey and Patricia Partridge


MORRISVILLE, North Carolina — Two days after a small plane crashed on approach to Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday night, crews removed the wreckage of the doomed Piper PA-32-301 Saratoga Tuesday from Umstead State Park.

A large crane was brought in to extricate the mangled plane from the wooded park, made up of nearly 6,500 acres that sits adjacent to RDU.

Dr. Harvey Partridge and Patricia Partridge, both 72, of Terra Ceia, Florida, were killed when the plane went down Sunday around 7:30 p.m. The couple was arriving in North Carolina for a vacation, according to family friends.

Friends of the family told WRAL News that Harvey Partridge was an experienced pilot who had logged thousands of hours in the air.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which occurred on a cloudy night with a low cloud ceiling.

The plane struck a tree and was found about 10 a.m. Monday upside down near the Reedy Creek multi-use trail following an extensive overnight search.

A statement by the FAA identified the plane as a Piper PA-32-301 Saratoga that was on approach to Runway 32 when radar contact with the small aircraft was lost. That runway is the smallest of three landing strips and perpendicular to RDU's primary runway.

Flight tracking data shows that the Partridges' took off from Columbus, Georgia, and their plane circled RDU multiple times.

According to an RDU spokeswoman, airport workers were notified at 7:25 p.m. Sunday by air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration that a small aircraft approaching the airport disappeared from radar somewhere over Umstead State Park, which is adjacent to the east side of RDU.

Story and video ➤

Dr. Harvey Partridge and his wife Pat were killed when their plane crashed on approach to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Harvey Partridge founded St. Petersburg's Partridge Animal Hospital in 1978. 

Two people were killed when a small plane crashed in William B. Umstead State Park as it was attempting to land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Sunday evening.

The State Highway Patrol announced the fatalities at noon Monday. They were later identified as Dr. Harvey Partridge, a veterinarian, and his wife Patricia Partridge, both 72, of Terra Ceia, Florida, near St. Petersburg, where Partridge founded Partridge Animal Hospital. A post on the hospital’s Facebook page described Partridge as “an experienced pilot.”

The plane was found off the Reedy Creek Trail shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, more than 14 hours after it was reported missing, said RDU spokeswoman Crystal Feldman. She said she did not have information about where the flight originated.

The plane is a Piper PA-32, a single-engine plane that seats up to six people, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The federal agency said the plane was approaching Runway 32, a small general aviation runway that extends east-west, perpendicular to the airport’s two main runways, when air traffic controllers lost contact with it.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation to determine what caused the crash. Board spokesman Keith Holloway said an investigator will examine the plane and the scene of the crash, review communications, radar data and weather information and try to speak to witnesses, if any. The investigator also will review maintenance records for the plane and the pilot’s medical and flying history.

The NTSB will release a preliminary report, describing the facts surrounding the crash, in about 10 days, Holloway said. A final report identifying the likely cause of the crash could take a year or more to complete.

FAA air traffic controllers contacted the airport about 7:25 p.m. Sunday to say they had lost radar contact with a plane as it approached RDU. A statement from the airport later in the evening said the small general aviation aircraft was near Umstead State Park, which borders the east side of RDU.

The airport’s runways were closed for about 20 minutes as fire and rescue crews responded to the report of a missing plane.

Searchers combed through Umstead in the dark Sunday night looking for the plane. Feldman said a State Highway Patrol helicopter looked for a heat signature on the ground, which might indicate the plane’s location, but the search was suspended about 2 a.m.

“Umstead State Park is 5,200 acres of dense forest with few roads and little to no light,” Feldman said Sunday. “It could take a very long time for us to find this plane.”

The search resumed at dawn Monday. It was led by the Raleigh Fire Department, with help from a dozen state and local rescue and law enforcement agencies.

Kendall Hocutt, the Raleigh Fire Department’s assistant chief of operations, described the search area as “rugged,” but did not provide any more details about where the plane crashed. Reedy Creek Trail runs the length of the park, from near RDU to where it emerges on the Raleigh side at Reedy Creek Road.

Umstead closed for the day Monday. The park will remain closed until the bodies have been removed from the plane and the NTSB investigator is finished with the site, said parks spokeswoman Katie Hall. It could reopen as early as Tuesday morning, Hall said, but perhaps as late as Wednesday.

Small planes often fly over the forests of Umstead on their approach to RDU, and a handful have crashed in the park over the years. In 1992, Wake County Commissioner Herb Stout and his passenger, Brian R. Benson of Durham, died when their Piper Arrow crashed into the woods as Stout prepared to land.

The pilot of a skydiving plane on its way from Illinois to North Carolina for maintenance was killed when the twin-engine aircraft crashed into the park shortly after midnight in the summer of 2000. Two passengers survived and spent three hours huddled in a sleeping bag near the wreckage until a park ranger, drawn by the smell of aviation fuel, found them.

Story and video ➤

Dr. Harvey Partridge

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WNCN) — A husband and his wife are dead after a plane crashed short of Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday night

After multiple agencies had to stop searching because of darkness, crews were able to locate the single-engine Piper off of the Reedy Creek Trail in the Umstead State Park on Monday.

The park is still closed, and as investigators try to piece together what happened those who live in the area tell CBS17 they were surprised to find out a plane crashed because they didn’t hear or see anything.

“We thought somebody had been hiking in the park and had an accident,” said Tamara Dunn.

After a decade of living on the doorstep of the Umstead State Park, Dunn says it’s all too common to see first responders headed into the forest, but something about Sunday night seemed different.

“First, the police department went by, and then the fire department went by,” said Dunn. “We walked down to check on our neighbor and make sure everything was OK down there. That’s when we found out a plane had gone down inside the park.”

As crews searched into the night for the wreckage Dunn did the only thing she could to try and help.

“We ended up leaving the porch light on just in case someone came wandering out and saw the light,” said Dunn.

Nearly 15 hours after the plane crashed into the 5600-acre state park it was discovered along a popular hiking trail.

“It was a rugged area,” said Raleigh Assistant Fire Chief Kendall Hocutt. “There was a lot of debris, and trees. It was difficult to locate which caused us some issues.”

The pilot, 72-year-old Harvey Partridge, and his wife Patricia passed away in the crash.

“I think the airport does a really great job with their safety,” said Dunn. “I think that sometimes tragedies happen for whatever reason. Until they have more information it’s going to be hard to say.”

The NTSB has investigators on the scene of the crash.

CBS17 is told the NTSB will be looking into the flight path, the weather conditions, and the pilot’s history.

Story and video ➤

RALEIGH, North Carolina — A Florida couple – a 72-year-old veterinarian and his wife – died when a plane crashed Sunday night in Raleigh.

Search and rescue crews located the plane around 10 a.m. Monday in William B. Umstead State Park, upside down in a tree near the Reedy Creek multi-use trail following an extensive overnight search.

"It was a rugged area, a lot of debris, trees," said Raleigh Fire Department Assistant Chief Kendall Hocutt about the crash site. "It was difficult to locate."

Dr. Harvey Partridge and Patricia Partridge, both 72, of Terra Ceia, Fla., were on board. Friends of the family told WRAL News that he was an experienced pilot who had logged thousands of hours in the air.

The couple was on vacation in North Carolina, friends said.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash along with the State Highway Patrol and North Carolina Parks officials.

According to an RDU spokeswoman, airport workers were notified at 7:25 p.m. Sunday by air traffic controllers from the Federal Aviation Administration that a small aircraft approaching the airport disappeared from radar somewhere over Umstead State Park, which is adjacent to the east side of RDU.

A statement by the FAA identified the plane as a Piper PA32 that was on approach to Runway 32 when radar contact with the small aircraft was lost. That runway is the smallest of three landing strips and perpendicular to RDU's primary runway.

Flight tracking data shows that the Partridges' took off from Columbus, Ga., and their plane circled RDU multiple times.

"If you have the airport in sight, if you have 3-2 in sight, you can do a visual approach. Just look for a visual approach runway 3-2," the tower told Harvey Partridge.

"The only thing I see is the beacon," he answered.

"Ok. We’re going to turn the lights up to see if you can see the runway," the tower answered.

Airport fire and first responder crews were dispatched to the scene, which prompted the airport to suspend operations for about 30 minutes, said Crystal Feldman, vice president of communications, government and community affairs at the airport.

All flights were running on a normal schedule Monday morning.

Almost 15 agencies from Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Wake Forest, Holly Springs and New Hope were assisting with search and rescue efforts Monday.

Story and video ➤


  1. Sad ending ....

  2. Aircraft was found. Pilot and passenger killed. RIP.

  3. For a very experienced pilot, he sounded in over his head - never established on the localizer ??

  4. I know that most of KR followers are pilots. I am not so this is trying to gain knowledge.
    I know that conditions were cloudy and civil twilight had ended at 2101 hrs. One of the individuals making a comment questioned whether the pilot ever found the localizer. So would this imply that he would need to land using ILS approach to RWY 32? This in turn would require a pilot an instrument type rating? Can I/we infer that he was using a visual approach to land?

    1. Thought I was the only non-pilot follower. I read this to calm my anxiety about flying and to learn more about the investigation process.

  5. He was coming in after sunset. He was set up for Rwy 5. Approach told him to land on Rwy 32 the short General Aviation runway with 120 foot trees off the end. I would have insisted with Approach to stick with Rwy 5- the longer better lit runway. If need be I would have declared an Emergency. Hey, this is a 72 year old veterinarian we are talking about. This was not some young, experienced pilot. If you don't like my comment - tough. I feel sorry for this 72 year old couple.

    1. I don't believe that 32 has an ILS approach. R nav or GPS to MDA

    2. I agree, appreciate your comments and research. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you know, a lot of controllers are not pilots and don’t think about these factors or don’t think at all. I’ve read a number of accidents that would’ve been avoided if the controller had only shared a couple of other bits of information he had which wouldn’t have take hardly any time to relate. In one if he had only mentioned or reminded a pilot about the other plane that was on a straight in approach. Therefore, it’s up to pilots to do the thinking for the controllers, I think.

  6. Flight track is harrowing.

  7. Answer to FigBar- The accident airplane was on a GPS approach not an ILS so there is no localizer or glideslope. The RNAV approach will give you a GPS line to follow that is similar to a localizer and if it is an augmented WAAS system it can give you vertical guidance as well but there is no "localizer" to follow as with an ILS approach. Key difference is that minimums for ceiling and visibility are higher with an RNAV(GPS) approach than with an ILS. Since the pilot was in the clouds, he had to have an instrument rating to be legal. Generally when flying any type of instrument approach and ceilings are over 2,000 ft AGL or more, once the field is in sight, the clearance gets changed to a visual approach. The visual allows the pilot to change to his/her own navigation and altitude to get to the runway and takes ATC out of the picture with respect to altitude and heading. When the pilot reported he had the field, this was a great relief to ATC who had a pilot that could now find his own way to the runway rather someone who was challenged to hold altitude and heading in the clouds with a non functioning autopilot. This was a good thing for all concerned, but the pilot or airplane failed somehow with the runway in sight. There have been more than a few accidents where there is some obstruction between the aircraft and the runway after a visual clearance that have caused accidents. In the dark when all of a sudden the runway disappears, it is very difficult to see terrain for what it is. Some have apparently thought it must be a small cloud and have flown right into the ground.

  8. The LNAV/VNAV DA for this runway is 820FT (400 AGL) and the LNAV is 1000 ft. (600 AGL) If as the controller said , the ceilings were @ 1000 AGL, he was 9 miles from the runway, below clouds at an altitude of less than 1400 FT. The crossing altitude for the RISSO fix, 5.1 NM from the runway , is fully 1000 ft higher at 2400, or @2000 ft. AGL. This should have set off alarm bells, and I am sure the controller will regret telling him 1400 FT was OK for that far from the airport. Looks like 32 is a very poorly lit runway with no approach lighting. One has to doubt if he ever saw the runway. There were so many clues for the controllers that he was behind the airplane, perhaps tired and almost disoriented. Tragic.

  9. Thank you, Fred Rohlfing for you taking the time to answer my question.

  10. Anyone else feel like this may be a textbook "Black Hole" scenario?

    To wit... brightly lit perpendicular runways/hangars/FBOs against a pitch black foreground. Unable to make out 32 due to relatively poor runway lights AND low approach angle. Rolling terrain with 120' trees, as mentioned earlier. 1000' blow MCA at 9mi out. Poor depth perception due to lack of visual references/horizon.

    Interesting point - the plane was found upside down. Is there a possiblity he actually did strike a tree and pitch over? It seems that he was close to the runway according to the audio and FlightAware.

    CTBrown said it... "perhaps tired, disoriented..." Also flying into an unfamiliar airport, having to change approaches midflight, in the clouds - this all makes for an ultra high-stress situation that regrettably ended tragically.

    Agreed with Anonymous - while I will comply with ATC if at all possible, there are times when a pilot's situation demands priority handling. No one else knows your situation, much less the busy people at the console. It is appropriate in those circumstances to inform Tower that you WILL be landing RWY 05.

    Lesson learned.

  11. This one is sad, sounds like he was low, slow and lost. I don't second guess ATC controllers but, perhaps he/she/they should have vectored him for the 'big' runway and maybe prompted him to maintain altitude and airspeed. Hindsight is 20/20.

  12. PIC: I was setup for RNAV 5, is that possible?
    ATC: Multiple jets inbound, ahhh, we're down to a single runway, ahhh it would help if could take ahhh RWY 32; if not, we'll try to work on it with you.

    With that I would have immediately responded with "unable RWY 32, must have RWY 05, thank you for working with me".

    After safe landing, I would have dealt with any consequences, and again thanked appropriate personnel.

    The PIC voice comes across to me as being a senior, elderly gentleman. That tells me who I am dealing with - an aged person. Initial radio communication he comes across confident, but then it quickly changed to a kind of nervous sounding. This, in my personal opinion, is a flight emergency situation.

    May they rest in peace.

  13. Flightaware shows his airspeed all over the place and going from 122-192 in a span of 6 minutes as he is trying to setup the approach. As he's letting down over last 10 minutes, his speed varies from 107-130. His rate of descent is about 400 and fairly stabilized on final. According to the comm, he says he has the runway in sight. There are no abrupt altitude rate changes in the last 5 minutes but he appears low at about one mile out and aligned with 32. Elevation of runway is 435 and it looks like he is at ~500 one mile out. 120 foot trees would do it. Possibly he was apprehensive of over shoot and crossing the main active, so he wants to get down without using much runway. He sounds calm in his communications. Runway has 4 light PAPI that should have been visible.

    Wreckage view appears to show a lot of damage at left wing root, not so much on the right, but clearly a high energy impact. So looks like he flew it into the trees on approach. Does not look like a stall and spin. Possibility of altimeter set incorrectly. I did hear him say he had information mike but maybe input incorrectly. RIP to both.

  14. The pilot reported autopilot trouble. I'm wondering if the altimeter input was faulty because his altitude does have some dramatic fluctuations. Could be that he was relying on a faulty instrument as he made his approach. That being said, if he had the runway in sight, he should have had the correct glide path by reference to the PAPI if they were working. Possibly the PAPI intensity was too low and possibly he was referencing something other than the runway when he reported it was in sight. Here is a link to a similar near crash when a flight crew referenced the wrong markers, did not see the PAPI and came very close to landing short in the water.

    If he was flying the instruments, then this might be one of those rare cases where reference to the instruments instead of outside results in the crash. There was no fire, so the possibility of fuel exhaustion is there until investigated.

    As for me, I'm strictly daytime VFR. I don't see myself having any business driving around at night. To many things to go wrong and too few options. If these good people had departed on their flight an hour earlier, maybe they would have made that approach. While this crash is not exactly a "getthereitis" it was an added factor. If one does not need to add risk, then it is always better to not add it in my opinion.

  15. I agree that there are times when you have to insist on what you need and have posted a number of stories on the red board. This was a case where insisting on what he needed would likely have resulted in a different outcome. I have had controllers try to put me in icing conditions on more than one occasion to make room for more important traffic. I have gone unable or even canceled IFR when I had the right conditions under a freezing layer. let them then move the T-38s flying East at 4,000 feet. I had a sudden stuck valve out of Fon Du Lac during Oshkosh and I told ATC I have an emergency I am landing on 36. No negotiation. And of course no phone number or paperwork. If you believe it is an emergency that is all trhat matters. I have cancelled IFR when ATC would not allow a diversion around dark building cumulus. Pilots need to get clearances that are safe for them and turn down any that aren't. ELiminate fuel problems, stay out of bad weather and bad clearances and live a lot longer. ATC is safe on the ground. Never forget that. Looks like a black hole situation to me too. Unlikely that it would've happened on the well-lit runways. I remember almost running off the taxi way in Knoxville 12 years ago. But I stopped called ground and said sorry but I don't know where to go. They had to divert a commercial flight to the parallel. But you know what? They had the lights on low intensity and put them on high and all of a sudden, I could see exactly where to go. always ask for what you need. I could've got nervous, bumbled on and ended up sunk in the grass.

  16. I get the folks on here saying he should have declined the RNAV 32 approach in lieu of RWY 5R, but at the same time, an instrument rated and current pilot should have no problem making that switch. I'm sure he was expecting 5R because that's what the ATIS probably said, but they wouldn't have him lined up for it that far out. He had RNAV 32 with an IAF immediately in front of him, requiring only one 90 degree turn inbound.

  17. I've done that approach several times both under instrument conditions and at night. The airport is on slightly higher ground as you travel northwest. The lighting for runway 32 is standard which means not near as bright as the other 2 main runways. They broke out of the clouds it sounds like around 1,000 feet AGL, he said he saw the beacon but not the runway. Once you've done the hard part of the approach and break out of the clouds and see the airport, the hardest thing in the world to do is go missed. But, that would have been the thing to do.

  18. Agree with Jim.....and the airport "beacon" does not qualify as runway identification on a non-precision approach, or any approach. You have to see actual approach lights or runway lights.

  19. While I generally agree with the anonymous comment that for an IFR pilot this should not have been a difficult change to make, we are all encouraged to consider our own skills and limitations. Just like the PPL and IFR ticket is still a license to learn and most of know how rare it is for those of us that are 150 hour a year pilots to get actual IMC and instrument approaches without intentionally going out in IMC conditions. This pilot could have reflected on his own skills and currency and asked for the easiest approach and biggest runway. Yes it is an admission that he could be better, yes it is disruptive to the controller (who is sitting in a chair on the ground), yes it may require a Canadair to hold for 3 minutes, but it may have been worth it and much more consistent with the limitations of this particular legal but apparently not highly skilled 70+ year old pilot.
    My point is relatively simple. In my last dozen IPC's and flight reviews, I have received nothing but compliments from the CFI's yet I still have to assess my skills and ask for what I think I need within that assessment. Sometimes that includes, the widest runway in a cross wind, highest intensity for runway lights, a runway more pointed into the wind, especially after a longer flight as I know my landings seem to be less proficient after 4 or 5 hours of flying, a slower approach in IMC even if there is a 737 behind me etc. Pilots just have to push ATC to get what they need and not push their skills except when training. In this case there was likely an easier option within the skills of this pilot.

  20. Suggest that in the final analysis the PIC should never have lifted off, several reasons have been noted and others will be revealed he was severely challenged from the beginning.

  21. "Experienced" is used so loosely these days......

  22. After attempting to recreate the conditions on my flight sim of this unfortunate soul's approach to rwy 32, I agree with Blogger Maening. He probably hit a tree. There are tall trees on the approach to Rwy 32. Since he originally had the RNAV for Rwy 5 loaded, I would assume he was also using RNAV for the approach to Rwy 32. This is an LNAV/VNAV approach with a DH 400ft agl. There's not much of a buffer above the trees even if on glideslope. As CTBrown pointed out, he was well below glideslope (or step down approach minimums) at 9 miles out. I agree that ATC should have done more to help him by letting him know he was too low. I strongly suspect he got too low and hit a tree. Rwy 5 would have been a much better choice, but this was evidently an airport the pilot was not familiar with. This is why I try to avoid strange field let downs in IFR conditions, especially at night. Circle to land IFR approaches at night are also dangerous and should be avoided, which is why they are often prohibited (listed as N/A on IFR charts).

  23. As a PP IR pilot I was taught on non-precision approachs to a VASI runway that "white over white, high as a kite -- red over white, just right -- red over red, you're dead". The lesson was to stay at decision altitude until I flew thru the red over red, and start down when I got to red over white.

    In IFR conditions I am not sure previous experience with an airport is of much importance. You fly the approach, and if you don't have the airport in sight when you should you fly the miss. Not sure what the NTSB will find in this case but we all know things can go sour in a heartbeat. The radar track for this flight is confusing, I hike at Unstead a lot, nex time I'll look to see if there are some lights that might have been confused with the airport environment. I don't think there are any ranger houses with lights that might have been confused with the airport environment in that immediate area. It's possible a ranger truck was driving along Reedy Creek trail and the trees would have blocked the headlights in such a way that it would have looked like a beacon.

  24. to all the anonymous bloggers here. Put your mane in and know what your talking about. I new this pilot and I'm also a instrument pilot . To have to reset your approach at last minute will challenge any pilot........ He had less than 8 minutes to live after being asked to switch runways. Gordon Rosenberg Multi-Instrument rated pilot..........

  25. I think this speaks to the larger issue of why to land at a large commercial aviation facility in such marginal conditions. As we have seen with the tragic Hobby incident in Houston being routed around all those jets can be highly challenging even in broad daylight. GA facilities are set up to lessen such difficulties, not magnify them. Sometimes it may just be the safer choice to divert. No matter .. RIP to all. #NotAPilot

  26. fyi, the reason for landing at a major airport is for its services. Car rental, hotel pickup, in general, better instrument approaches, lower minimums.

    It's important to know when you have to fly the missed approach, it doesn't happen often but I can assure you most rated pilots are trained to have the missed approach firmly in mind. In nearly every BFI I'd been under the hood and at minimums when told to fly the miss.

  27. I should add, avoid places like JFK and the like, but rdu and others of that it are good places fog GA,

  28. Cockpit view of an approach to Runway 32 at RDU:


  29. It's very sad when old people die like this but at least they went together and I believe that's how they would have wanted it.

  30. As a former USAF instructor pilot in four different fighters and a current CFI, and having reviewed both the Flight Aware data and the day/VMC approach video, it is clear this pilot likely fell victim to the "black hole" as previously mentioned. After descending underneath the clouds at 1400 MSL, the pilot allowed the aircraft to descend at roughly 200 fpm, virtually to impact. His attention was probably diverted from flying instruments to locating the airfield (based on the R/T) and in the process, was unable to detect the gentle and insidious descent. This is a very common error, especially in training. Students often padlock on the runway threshold, to the exclusion of airspeed and altitude control. The lesson here is never give up on your instrument crosscheck until you have a positive ID on the runway and you're in a safe position to land. The runway change didn't cause the accident, it just exposed the existing and unfortunate flaw in the pilot's instrument flying capability. In sympathy, Matt

  31. I read the report. It sounded like he was not sure of seeing the beacon light on approach. If I was the tower I would of asked him if 100% sure, he responded yes, but his answers were uncertain. Perhaps climbing out then another approach, given the conditions. Sad it ended that way. Things happen quickly in an airplane, got to keep up with it.

  32. I read the report. It sounded like he was not sure of seeing the beacon light on approach. If I was the tower I would of asked him if 100% sure, he responded yes, but his answers were uncertain. Perhaps climbing out then another approach, given the conditions. Sad it ended that way. Things happen quickly in an airplane, got to keep up with it.