Thou I can not dispute the NTSB claim of the accident, I do know the pilot you write about personally. Please make it clear that Vladek, was a furloughed airline pilot, a CFI, and certified to teach in the G1000 and DA40 aircraft. He was not someone that just decided to rent a DA40 for the weekend for a long cross country.
As you know, if the aircraft has not been recovered or a cause might not be solved, it will be put under "PILOT ERROR" as the sole cause of the accident. But "what if" there were other factors, maybe remote, that was the real cause of the accident. Maybe an engine failure, dual electrical failure or other could have caused the flight path to end in the water 6 miles from the airport. Without a survivor of the pilot or his passenger, the aircraft there will only be what the NTSB has surmised as being "pilot error".
I completely agree fatigue is a serious matter and being an airline pilot, I try to understand my limits and control factors that could lead to fatigue hurting my flying abilities. Vladek probably extended his personal limits to continue the flight and having serious weather around the Arcata airport that he was unfamiliar with, added to an ever increasing work load. Still with all the equipment the G1000 has to offer, Vladek's experience in the aircraft and his 121 airline background, it is a little sensational to use the claim that he just lost situational awareness on the final approach to Rwy 14. Could other factors been the cause of the accident? Of course, maybe Engine failure? dual electrical failure (loss of back up battery) causing both PFD/MFD to fail?
Plus as an airline pilot myself that has flown into ACV, the weather reports from the ASOS can change VERY rapidly and can vary from being 12 miles out on an approach vs right on the airport. Not to say the NTSB reports were wrong, but from flying in that weather that day in california, I can understand where someone who is unfamiliar, being bounced around in weather, trying to get ready for an approach could make mistakes that could snow ball. But still even if the weather reports WERE correct at the time along the approach and Vladek had the runway in sight, and the weather ceiling of around 5000 ft, Rwy 14 has a VASI, that he should have noticed and corrected for the deviation. Unless there were other factors besides fatigue. Which could explain why there wasn't a distress call back to seattle center. Still its all speculation on my part.
Still the report is only one sided and the conclusion on the accident is just as vague as your article in many ways. Fatigue could have been and probably was a major role, but there is NO EVIDENCE to disprove any other causes due to only the recovery of small pieces of the composite airframe. No black boxes or CVRs can show things happened otherwise. As much as I understand the point of your article is to put a spotlight on Fatigue and related accidents, it still lacks the BIG PICTURE of what happened that night. Many questions that might never be answered that could bring a better understanding of why or what happened that night that go beyond just fatigue and "pilot error" as the sole cause of the loss my friend. Saying Fatigue was the sole cause would just be a blanket statement when there is not other clues, evidence, or even the word of the pilot to say otherwise.
Also would love if you added the second half of the story, that many people seem to omit when this accident has been reported. ONLY ONE newspaper/reporter has written about it.
(other half of the story)
"Yet many questions remain. Per usual procedure, Milushev had been talking with the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control center in Seattle, Wash. His last radio contact took place eight-tenths of a mile northwest of Trinidad Head at a perilously low altitude of just 100 feet. (The Eureka-Arcata airport is at 221 feet.) After communications with the plane had been lost, an employee at the Eureka-Arcata airport reportedly told the Seattle dispatcher that the Milushev’s plane had actually landed and was on the tarmac. This erroneous report resulted in a 12-hour delay in search and rescue efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard, which wasn’t told of the missing plane until the following morning.
Once notified by the Sheriff’s Office, Coast Guard personnel immediately began searching up and down the coastline and continued doing so for the next 10 hours, according to Lt. Russel Merrick. But it may have already been too late. “The water temperature up here is about 50 degrees,” Merrick said. “Survivability in normal street clothing — you’re looking at two to three hours.”"
Not to say this would have solved the mystery of why things happened to the aircraft, but if the crash was survivable, and the proximity of the coast guard station and the crash site off of Trinidad point, the possibility thou remote, was there.
Your article does bring attention to the dangers of fatigue that we as pilots face and sometime push ourselves to get the flight done. But use this accident as your basis for fatigue awareness and to omit many of the factors and facts of this accident, that a reader not be familiar with, brings a disservice to the aviation community and the readers of FLYING.
SkyWest First Officer
Friend and fellow instructor of Vladek Milushev