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Night PA28 into sea 24/1/2021

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Night PA28 into sea 24/1/2021

Old 5th Feb 2021, 21:29
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Night PA28 into sea 24/1/2021

The ATC requirements look to have overloaded this pilot. Sequential setting transponders with one knob take more time and attention to set compared to 8 digit keyboards.
"While in a cruise profile about 1,000 ft, the pilot requested flight-
following services to COI and routing “along the shoreline.” ATC approved the request, issued the altimeter setting, and instructed the pilot to proceed offshore and “follow the shoreline northbound at or
below 500 feet.” At 1958:37, the pilot acknowledged the instructions and repeated the altimeter setting as the airplane began a descending left turn to the east.
The airplane continued an eastbound descent on a ground track about perpendicular to the shoreline when the controller assigned the airplane a new transponder code. When the pilot acknowledged the
transponder code instructions, the airplane was at 300 ft and descending. At 1959:25, the airplane’s transponder code changed to one that was a single digit off of what was assigned. At that time, the
airplane was crossing the beach at 225 feet and descending. Once over water, the airplane’s track depicted a shallow, descending left turn.
At 2000:00, the controller repeated the transponder instructions, but the airplane’s ADS-B position was no longer being received and there were no further communications with the pilot."
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 00:15
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Would you confirm the date on that incident Maoraigh1?
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 01:31
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Be this one I'd presume DAR.

Kathryn's Report: Piper PA-28-161 Warrior III, N266ND: Fatal accident occurred January 24, 2021 in West Palm Beach, Florida
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 13:19
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Hello!

Is that the nomal way of performing VFR flights at night in the US? “follow the shoreline northbound at or below 500 feet.” Where I live and fly, we are not allowed to fly below 500ft unless for landing... When I teach night flying I tell the students not to leave traffic pattern altitude, which usually is 1000ft AGL, until established on final - same as I was taught. As this accident shows, even a minor distraction like changing a transponder code can make one lose those precious 500ft within seconds. And this student was IFR rated, so he must have been able to perform an instrument scan.
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 13:50
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"At or below 500" to duck under Palm Beach International approach - did it about 30 years ago in daylight - think we had to be a minimum half mile off shore. Beach is about 2.5 miles from the threshold. If I recall from a more recent flight, Fort Lauderdale International has a similar requirement. In clear weather I can't think this should be a problem at night?
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 14:08
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This is the first time I’ve seen an accident report published in advance.
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 15:24
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Is that the normal way of performing VFR flights at night in the US? “follow the shoreline northbound at or below 500 feet.
I've had that clearance a number of times following the Florida coast. As said, it keeps you under the approach path. One flying just offshore of Miami Beach, I was instructed to fly at 250 feet. I asked for confirmation, and the instruction was confirmed, so I did. The only option, would be to fly far off shore, which is undesirable in a single.

It sounds like the pilot was initially headed south[east] bound from Lantana airport, planning a left/northbound turn at the shore. Once the pilot crossed off shore, on a south[east], turning to north heading, there would have been no surface visual reference, only ocean. At night, this is no longer effective VMC. Perhaps a similar event to JFK Jr.

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Old 6th Feb 2021, 17:04
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I too have been offered that clearance and have only accepted during the day (although also risky due to boat-towed parachutes, drones, kite surfers, helicopters, condos, banner towers, and other aircraft).
At night, better to route overhead the relevant airfields if possible. I find ATC usually give that clearance if asked. Skirting outside of airspace to the west also an option, usually some highways to land on in event of eng fail, but tricker navigation than just following coast and student presumably afraid of airspace incursion.
On moonless nights the ocean can be a black hole compared to bright coastal lights! Found myself effectively on instruments once taking off from Sebastian to the east.
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 17:10
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Can't recall how low we went along Miami beach - it was pretty low but not 250' - wish I'd been sitting on the left or we'd been southbound, fabulous views. Later we passed some way behind a Citation on approach into Fort Lauderdale Exec which is around four miles inland - not sure how high we were but we descended to stay clear of his wake and still bloody hit it!

I would have imagined that the shoreline lights ought to give a good visual reference from a half mile (is that correct or is it a mile?) but not having flown at night in a light aircraft...
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 18:51
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What are the rules in the USA about MSA at night?
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 10:36
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Another victim of the infamous "Killing Zone" Just earned his single-ending instrument rating 4 days before!!!!
190 total hours of flight experience, 95 hours of which were in the accident airplane make and model.
The pilot earned his instrument airplane rating January 20, 2021.
What does this tell us? I am sick to the bone.

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Old 7th Feb 2021, 11:13
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I bet the instructor that signed him off for his instrument flight test, and the examiner that passed him, are sweating bullets right now...
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 12:09
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Originally Posted by Booglebox View Post
I bet the instructor that signed him off for his instrument flight test, and the examiner that passed him, are sweating bullets right now...
Why? Seemingly minor distractions have led to many accidents of large airliners operated by very experienced crews. Maybe he was an excellent student and good pilot. Hand flying at night at very low level over a black sea with no visible horizon and being constanlty distracted can catch out everybody. Can't happen to me? Of course it can. Just think about all the little mistakes you made in all those years.
If anyone should sweat about this that it better be the local aispace planners.
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 12:28
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I bet the instructor that signed him off for his instrument flight test, and the examiner that passed him, are sweating bullets right now...

Why?
I think of it as a night and instrument rating as being tools in your piloting toolbox. But the fact that you have a tool may not confer upon a pilot the freedom to use it unwisely. How many of us were taught to use a hammer? How many of us then hit our thumb?

Both the instructor and the examiner are duty bound to not only assess the candidate's ability to use the tool, but also evaluate/mentor the candidate's judgement in how and when to use it. It's a moral responsibility of senior pilots to do something to mentor new pilots toward safe flying. Not only instructors, but also examiners. Certainly some if my wisest mentoring has come from an examiner during a ride.

Early in our piloting career (or right away for some), we graduate to a more useful tool - a four seat airplane. Having two more seats behind you does not always mean that you can fill them, that's the trained skill that sometimes it's not appropriate to use the tool you have - you're full of fuel, and it's a hot day, you can't fill those two seats...

Many times when training a new pilot to floats or skis, I spend as much briefing and in flight time mentoring where to land, as how. This new tool, with added capability can lure a new pilot into all kinds of trouble. Similarly the designation of "instrument rated" can lure a pilot to think that they have it figured - but they still have to fly the plane! So I also teach that before you allow an ATC (or passenger) request to distract you, be very certain that you are flying the plane, and during the time you will be distracted by the request, the plane will not wander out of your control. I'm okay either tell ATC I cannot comply right now, or even "missing" the communication first time to assure safe control of the plane. 'Talk about people sweating bullets, how about the controller? That person would completely prefer that their request had be ignored or missed, rather than being the final factor in a fatal crash....
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 13:04
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Aviation is a dangerous business and the professional community around it tries to do everything to make it safer. All the instructors and examiners I know personally, would be emotionally touched by the loss of his/her former student, especially when it's related to the pilot, and would professionally ask themselves, what they could have done more for this pilot to survive or avoid this situation. The same goes for ATC friends: this was apparently a VFR flight, so no responsibility on the controller at all, but it's stil hits the ATCO as well, who dealt with the accident aircraft the last time.

I think there is a tendency in these accidents, that gaining an instrument rating doesn't mean that VFR flight limitations and risks (night) can be pushed or ignored. There is the issue of currency (not in this case though...), then the aircraft capabilities and last but most important, the preparation. The preparation is different for a VFR flight than an IFR flight. Having to switch to instruments on a VFR flight is not a "great save", but an utter planning failure and a last resort in a dire emergency for a situation, that should have been avoided altogether. I have seen too many accident reports, some close to home, where IR pilots ventured on a VFR flight, but taking VFR rules and risk assessments too lightly, assuming that their training will save them, should anything go wrong with flying VFR. Quite often this is NOT the case, the aircraft is NOT configured for IFR flight (avionics), it's way off normal IFR routes and way below MSAs, the necessary charts are not available in the cockpit etc. Add this extra workload to transitioning to instruments while handflying a small airplane close to the ground, and you know the odds of surviving this moment is not that good, must prioritize the flying, say "standby" to ATC whenever needed, turn back if needed, ask for a hold to get stuff organized etc.
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 14:01
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That flight should have been no issue for a trainee pilot with that experience level.

The pilot’s seatbelt and shoulder harness were not buckled/attached and appeared intact.
Distracted and taking pictures or video of the city skyline?
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 15:20
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Originally Posted by B2N2 View Post
Distracted and taking pictures or video of the city skyline?
I don't want to go into the gruesome details, but the report also states "The cockpit and cabin areas appeared intact." as well. So it is equally possible, that the aircraft hit the water in a shallow descent, spun around one wing, and the seatbelt and shoulder harnesses may have been unfastened by the pilot while trying to egress.
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 18:49
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Questions about this aircraft:
Was the transponder an 8 key or a set and enter each number separately device?
How brightly was it lit?
I've had difficulty maintaining a steady altitude in good day VFR with an untrimmed aircraft while setting the code on a Trig. That was a code given as I left airfield frequency for regional ATC. Not trimmed for level nearing top of climb, below 1500'.
I busted the Class D, but quickly descended. 2,000+ hours solo, and flying my own aircraft. This accident was a rented aircraft.
I have much sympathy for the pilot. With the ATC transmission I doubt he would have been doing anything other than trying to fly.
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