After the Accident – Below Minimums | Aviation

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“Practically on the ground now,” radioed one of the pilots of a Cessna 441 after acknowledging its approach clearance. It was inbound on the RNAV GPS Runway 36 instrument approach at Winchester Municipal Airport (KBGF) in Tennessee. Radar and ADS-B data showed the plane crossing the intermediate approach fix on course and at the correct altitude. It started a descent but did not level out at the final approach fix altitude. Instead, it continued downward, crashing into woods about 5 miles short of the runway. Both pilots aboard were killed.

The accident occurred on a cloudy, cold February afternoon in 2021. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its final report, and it contains some clues to the pilot’s thinking. There are no surprising mechanical or meteorological findings. No unexpected revelations. Instead, it was as it initially appeared—a normally functioning airplane flown below the published approach minimums out of the clouds and into the ground.

Cessna 441s are workhorses—this one powered by two 715 hp turboprop engines—and they are popular with charter operators. This 1978 model Conquest II had two pilots in the cockpit. One was a professional 18,000-hour airline transport pilot (ATP), the other a 770-hour pilot with a commercial certificate who had recently retired. It’s unknown who was in what seat, or who was flying at the time of the accident. What we do know is the more experienced pilot had been thinking about the instrument approach at their home airport for hours.

At 9:24 a.m., the ATP-rated pilot called Leidos Flight Service for a weather briefing. The plan was to fly from Belvidere, Tennessee, to Bowman Field Airport (KLOU) in Louisville, Kentucky, on to Thomasville Regional Airport (KTVI) and then return. It was “severe clear” at the destination, but closer to home a cold front was passing overhead. Right away the briefer talked about possible icing, as conditions were conducive for ice to…

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