NTSB Identification: LAX01FA055.
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Accident occurred Saturday, December 09, 2000 in PETALUMA, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/02/2004
Aircraft: Cessna TR182, registration: N739HB
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

After being cleared for a VOR/DME Runway 29 instrument approach in actual instrument meteorological conditions, the pilot failed to align the airplane onto the required 276-degree final approach course and descended beneath the 1,120-foot msl minimum descent altitude. The airplane impacted rising hilly terrain about 3.5 miles northeast of the airport at 1,020 feet msl, while tracking 291 degrees. Although the pilot had been cleared to perform a VOR/DME approach, an operating handheld GPS receiver (not approved for IFR navigation) was found in the airplane, and a GPS Runway 29 approach plate was found on the pilot's kneeboard. The GPS's final approach course was 290 degrees, and the airplane was tracking 291 degrees at the time of impact. Also, during the last 2 minutes of flight, the pilot had performed a stabilized descent from approximately 2,000 to 1,000 feet. The pilot was issued an instrument rating about 6 months before the accident. He had indicated to an acquaintance that he planned to practice instrument flying on the day of the crash. Toxicological tests on blood from the pilot detected a very high level of paroxetine (a prescription antidepressant) and an elevated level of mirtazapine (a prescription antidepressant with substantial sedative effects). The pilot did not indicate the use of these drugs on his last application for the medical certificate.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's improper IFR procedure, failure to maintain course alignment, and use of a nonapproved handheld GPS receiver for navigation during flight in actual instrument meteorological conditions. Factors contributing to the accident were the low clouds and the pilot's use of prescription drugs not approved for use by the FAA.

Full narrative available

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