An airline transport-rated pilot flying his ailing friend from Key West to Gainesville, Florida for a possible emergency organ transplant died along with the friend and one other passenger when their Partenavia P.68C crashed on approach to the Gainesville Regional Airport in poor weather early in the morning on 7 November.
According to a preliminary report by the US National Transportation Safety Board, the five-passenger high-wing twin crashed in a wooded area about 1,090m (3,575ft) from the threshold to Runway 29 at Gainesville, the runway to which the aircraft had been cleared to fly an instrument approach by Jacksonville Centre. The 175m debris path was aligned with the runway, investigators found.
Reported weather at Gainesville at 0253, less than 10min after the accident, was wind calm, visibility 1/4mi in fog and vertical visibility of 100ft. The minimum required ceiling and visibility for the Category 1 instrument approach are 200ft and 1/2mi, according to the official FAA instrument approach procedure.
The fixed base operator at Gainesville told the NTSB that the pilot contacted him on the radio some time after 0200, asking about weather, runway lighting conditions and nearby alternate airports. The operator told the pilot that visibility was low due to fog and that “he could not see the terminal lights from the FBO.” The airport’s control tower was closed during the overnight hours, as is typical for the airport.
Though owned and operated by Air Key West, a Key West-based charter company, the aircraft was being used on personal business by the company pilot with the permission of the owner, who told the NTSB he had never before used the aircraft for medical help flights.
The 3,300h pilot had been scheduled to fly an early Friday charter for Air Key West, but changed his plans after receiving a call at 2230 on Thursday night from the friend, who was on a kidney transplant waiting list. “The friend stated that a possible organ was available in Gainesville, and that he’d have to get there quickly for surgery the following morning,” the NTSB reports. Local media reported that the other passenger in the Partenavia was the wife of the patient.