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6th of February 2020, Blog #585

A Cessna 208B Grand Caravan was operating a cargo flight from Sacramento-Mather Airport to Eureka-Murray Field, both in California and the USA on this day in 2020. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6a-42A powered aircraft had departed Sacramento at 05.30 lt (local time) almost completed its 216 miles (186 nautical miles) and was approaching its destination shortly before 07.00 lt in the morning.

The aircraft in its final position (Source: / © Capt. Libby Tonning)

The weather at Eureka-Murray Field at 06.45 lt was recorded as;

  • Wind - Calm

  • Visibility - 9 miles

  • Clouds - none

  • Altimeter setting - 30.29 inHg / 1026 hPa

The aircraft was descending for a VFR Approach and landing at runway 12 at Eureka0Murray Field, a 3011 ft long, 75 feet wide runway. The airport did not have a VASI (Visual Approach Slope Indicator) for runway 12. As the aircraft was on the left base leg, during the visual approach, at a height of approximately 100 feet above the water of Arcata bay, the aircraft entered a fog bank. Effectively entering instrument meteorological conditions with zero forward visibility. The pilot, wanting to have a visual reference to gauge the aircraft's altitude, looked outside the left window when a saw that he was very rapidly descending towards the water.

The aircraft in its final position (Source: / © Cody Hills)

He attempted to arrest the descent and pulled back on the yoke to avoid hitting the water. However, before the aircraft started to climb the nosewheel hit the water. The aircraft nosed over, coming to a stop inverted in the water, and partly sunk. The pilot escaped without injuries and contacted emergency services while standing on the aircraft's landing gear. He gave his location to the dispatcher and at 07.55 he was rescued and taken to the hospital for a check-up.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the accident and interviewed the pilot. He stated, amongst others, that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have contributed to the accident. After the NTSB completed their investigation it published its Aviation Accident Final Report on the 27th of July, 2020. They determined the probable cause of the accident was;

"The pilot's delayed response to initiate a go-around during a night visual approach over water after the airplane entered instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a loss of forward visibility and subsequent impact with the water."

The aircraft in the water of Arcata Bay (Source; © Humboldt Bay FD)

The NTSB report can be accessed by clicking on the .pdf file below;

Cessna 208 CFIT 04-Feb-2020
Download PDF • 110KB

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