NTSB Identification: CEN12LA109
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Tuesday, December 20, 2011 in Denton, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/27/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 172R, registration: N987BT
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Serious.

NTSB investigators may have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

While landing at their destination airport, the commercial pilot and flight instructor flew the instrument landing system approach to runway 18. Weather was reported as 200-feet vertical and 1/2-mile visibility with fog. An observer, who sat in a rear seat, recalled that the airplane entered a fog bank during the approach. The observer saw airport lighting to the airplane's left, which was about the time the pilots realized that they were not aligned with the runway. Rather than fly the missed approach procedure, the pilot attempted to circle to runway 36 despite the weather being below minimums to circle. As the airplane set up to land on runway 36, the pilots realized that there was insufficient runway remaining to safely land but did not execute the published missed approach procedure, and, while making a left turn, the airplane impacted terrain. The airplane's flight plan was not closed out, which enabled air traffic control to initiate a search of the airplane. Incomplete radar data was used to locate the accident airplane. Despite searching 4 hours, the responders could not locate the airplane. Finally, a cellular telephone belonging to one of the pilots was "pinged" and responders were able to obtain a location; the airplane was found shortly thereafter. A postaccident review of all data available revealed that an additional radar site had recoded additional radar points, the last of which was 259 yards from the actual crash site.

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

The pilot's controlled flight into terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude in instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's decision to perform a circling maneuver in weather below circling minimums instead of flying the missed approach instructions.

Full narrative available

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