NTSB Identification: MIA04FA045.
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Accident occurred Monday, January 19, 2004 in Fort Pierce, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/07/2005
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-181, registration: N298PA
Injuries: 2 Fatal,1 Serious.

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.

The airplane was on a night instrument training flight in actual instrument meteorological conditions, with a flight instructor, a private pilot-rated student, and a private pilot-rated passenger on board. The flight was cleared for an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 09. As part of the clearance, the controller assigned the flight an altitude of 1,800 feet to be maintained until established on the approach. The pilot read back the altitude incorrectly as 1,200 feet, and the controller did not correct the error. Radar service was terminated, and the pilot was cleared to change frequencies. The pilot told the controller that he planned to make a full stop landing. There were no further transmissions from the airplane. According to the passenger, the flight instructor had taken control of the airplane "due to the fact that the visibility was so poor." The passenger stated that "there was no visibility." The last thing the passenger recalled prior to impact was that "the VSI [vertical speed indicator] was dropping more than 500 ft per min." Radar data showed the airplane tracking the ILS course. The data showed the airplane crossing the outer marker at a mode C altitude of about 1,300 feet (corresponding to an altitude of 1,200 feet when corrected for local altimeter setting). This was below the 1,800 foot glideslope intercept altitude at the outer marker shown on the approach plate. The airplane remained at 1,300 feet for the next 49 seconds and then began to descend. The last radar return was recorded 1 minute 27 seconds later and showed the airplane at a mode C altitude of 400 feet (300 feet when corrected for local altimeter setting), approximately 1/4 mile west of the accident site. The accident occurred approximately 1/2 nautical mile west of the threshold of runway 09. The airplane was approximately 300 feet left of the extended runway centerline when it initially struck trees and then power lines about 50 feet above the ground (agl). The decision height for the approach was 223 feet msl, or 200 feet agl. Reported weather conditions at the airport near the time of the accident were overcast ceiling at 100 feet, surface visibility 5 statute miles in mist, and surface wind from the west at 7 knots. The ILS approach was flight checked by the FAA two days after the accident, and the localizer, glide slope, distance measuring equipment, locator outer marker, and middle marker all inspected satisfactory. No evidence of any pre-impact mechanical discrepancies were found with the airframe, engine, avionics or instruments that would have prevented successful completion of the approach.

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

The flight instructor's failure to comply with the instrument approach procedure in that he descended prematurely below decision height resulting in an in-flight collision with trees, power lines and the ground. Contributing factors were the dark night light condition and the low ceiling.

Full narrative available

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