These March 2003 Accident Reports are provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, they are intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.
Aircraft: Cessna 185.
Location: Grand Junction, Colo.
Injuries: 4 fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The wind was from 230° to 280° at 24 knots when the pilot, who had more than 4,000 hours and held multiple certificates including Certificated Flight Instructor, taxied for an intersection takeoff from runway 29. The tower controller said that during the takeoff roll, the airplane drifted off the right side of the runway and stirred up a cloud of dust. Immediately after liftoff, the airplane took on a pronounced crab to the left into the wind. The pilot remarked, “Well, that was gustier than I thought, guys.” The controller replied, “…looks pretty rough up there. Sure does not look like an attractive flight this evening.” The pilot answered, “No, but it is time to go home.” The evening of the accident there were moderate rain showers in the area with gusty winds and downdrafts.
The airplane was found two days later. It was certified in the restricted category, and approved for agriculture and pest control operations. Only the two front seats were installed in the airplane. The rear two seats had been removed and were later found in the pilot’s hangar. In addition to the pilot, there were three passengers aboard.
Probable cause: The pilot’s poor judgment and his failure to maintain aircraft control. Contributing factors were the high winds and downdrafts, and the pilot’s self-induced pressure to go home.
Aircraft: Piper PA-22/20-150.
Location: South Woodstock, Conn.
Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The runway, which is 75 feet wide, was covered with snow and a swath of only 50 feet had been plowed. The surface of the runway was wet with slush. As the pilot landed his tailwheel-equipped aircraft, the right main wheel started to hydroplane on the wet runway while the left wheel grabbed. The aircraft lurched to the left, its wingtip hit the snow bank. The aircraft nosed over.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain direction control.
Aircraft: Cessna 150.
Location: Gateway, Colo.
Aircraft damage: Minor.
What reportedly happened: The pilot was attempting to land on an unimproved dirt strip that had a light dusting of snow. He reduced power and deployed the flaps in preparation for a soft-field landing. As the aircraft settled to the runway, the stall warning horn activated. The main landing gear touched down first. As the nose gear began to settle to the runway, the left wheel hit a patch of soft ground and stuck. The force jerked the aircraft sideways and the pilot could not recover directional control. The airplane tipped up on its left wingtip and nosed over.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control. A contributing factor was the snow-covered runway.
Aircraft: Cessna 177.
Location: Old Fort, N.C.
Injuries: 3 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The non-instrument-rated pilot took off and headed east through the mountains. The weather was marginal VFR. Once airborne, the pilot was advised by a controller that the cloud level was lowering. He replied he would do some scud running if he had to because he had an appointment to keep. When the airplane failed to arrive at its destination, a search was initiated, and the airplane was located at an elevation of 2,860 feet in mountainous terrain 18 nautical miles east of the destination airport. Examination of the airframe, engine, and instruments revealed no evidence of malfunction. The airplane was topped off with fuel before departure and 268 pounds of baggage was recovered from the wreckage.
Probable cause: The decision to continue VFR flight into IMC and failure to maintain terrain clearance resulting in an in-flight collision with terrain.
Aircraft: Cessna 172.
Location: Richmond, Va.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: None.
What reportedly happened: The pilot and the passenger conducted a preflight inspection, and boarded the airplane for a night departure. After starting the engine, the pilot noticed the left main landing gear wheel chock had not been removed. He asked the passenger to remove it. The pilot twice told the passenger to walk behind the aircraft to reach the left wheel.
After the passenger exited the airplane, the pilot saw him step toward the front despite the pilot’s instruction not to go toward the front of the aircraft. The pilot screamed a warning but the passenger did not hear it and was struck by the spinning propeller.
During the autospy, the passenger tested positive for marijuana.
Probable cause: The passenger’s failure to remain clear of the propeller. Factors included the recent use of marijuana.
Aircraft: Cessna 182.
Location: North English, Iowa.
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot receiving training and his CFI were attempting to take off from a grass taxiway measuring 1,000 feet. Next to the taxiway was a grass runway measuring 2,400-by-70 feet. The pilot used the recommended short field technique and the aircraft lifted off halfway down the taxiway. The aircraft reached 65 knots but had difficulty climbing. The pilot said the CFI came on the controls during the climb out. The pilot said they were headed toward the power lines at the north end of the taxiway, and he heard the stall warning horn. The airplane veered to the left, and then the right side of the airplane impacted the terrain. The required takeoff distance for that airplane to clear a 50-foot obstacle from a grass airstrip with the weather conditions that day was approximately 1,409 feet.
Probable cause: Failure to maintain adequate airspeed, resulting in a stall and the CFI’s improper decision to attempt to takeoff from a short, grass taxiway instead of from the longer runway.