WPR11LA076
WPR11LA076

On December 13, 2010, about 1550 Pacific standard time, a Taylorcraft BC12-65, N36041, collided with trees during the landing approach to Martin Field Airport (S95), College Place, Washington. The 82-year-old certificated airline transport pilot operated the airplane under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The pilot sustained serious injuries, and the airplane sustained substantial damage to both wings and the forward fuselage. The local personal flight departed Martin Field, about 1530. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot reported that he performed four uneventful takeoffs and landings on runway 23, in light and variable winds, with a passenger on board. After the last landing, the passenger deplaned, and the pilot departed again in the airplane to observe a local property. About 20 minutes later, he returned to the airport. He noted that the sun was low on the horizon, and the winds favored runway 23. He joined the pattern on the downwind leg, and as the airplane turned to final, his view became completely obscured by the glare of the sun. He banked the airplane to the left, and was able to observe the ground but not the runway. The pilot then observed trees in his flight path; he performed evasive maneuvers but the airplane struck the trees. The pilot was unable to maintain control of the airplane and it subsequently collided with terrain.

The pilot stated that he did not correct for a crosswind at the traffic pattern altitude on final approach, and the airplane drifted from the runway centerline. He noted that he could have avoided the accident by landing on the opposite runway, or aborting the landing when he lost sight of the runway. He reported that there were no pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Martin Field Airport was owned by the pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration Digital Airport/Facility Directory indicated that the single asphalt surface runway 05/23 was 3,819 feet long, and 60 feet wide. The airplane came to rest at the base of a group of trees located about 600 feet northeast of the runway 23 threshold, and 250 feet northwest of the runway centerline.

An automated surface weather observation at Walla Walla Regional Airport (ALW), Walla Walla, Washington (elevation 1194 feet msl, 6 miles northeast of accident site), was issued 3 minutes after the accident. It indicated wind from 120 degrees at 4 knots; 10 miles or greater visibility, with an overcast ceiling at 6,000 feet; temperature at 13 degrees C; dew point 08 degrees C; and an altimeter setting at 29.83 inches of mercury. A Safety Board computer program used to calculate the position of the sun and moon was used and the sun disk was determined to be 1.8 degrees above the western horizon on a azimuth of 233.2 degrees.

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