March 26, Panama City, Fla. / Piper Comanche


At about 18:13 CST, a Piper PA-24-260 crashed into West Bay approximately three miles from Panama City-Bay County International Airport, killing the pilot. IMC prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight was en route from Luverne, Ala., and the pilot contacted the Panama City control tower when he was six miles out. The controller advised him to enter a left downwind to runway 32, then advised him that the weather conditions at the airport were below VFR minimums. The pilot said he did not have the field in sight and was at 900 feet. He said he would fly north and was told to contact Jacksonville Center, which he did. Radar data showed that, in the five minutes before the accident, the airplane descended from 2,000 feet msl to 800 feet msl while on a south-southeast heading. Panama City reported visibility of 2.5 miles with heavy rain and mist, broken clouds at 800 feet, and overcast at 1,600 feet.


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