Flight over friend’s riverside home ends tragically

These August 2004 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 172.

Location: Waterloo, Ala.

Injuries: 1 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 680-hour pilot told an acquaintance he would fly the airplane over the acquaintance’s home along the river. Two witnesses in a boat, both of whom were CFIs, observed the airplane flying low and circling over the river as if searching for something. According to the witnesses, the airplane slowly descended until it was approximately 50 feet above the water. It leveled off and continued to fly over the water for about a mile before pulling up sharply and climbing to approximately 250 to 300 feet above the surface. According to the witnesses, the plane stalled, made a half turn to the right, and plunged nose-first into the water. The aircraft sank within 15 seconds. The post crash examination revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering at low altitude, which resulted in a stall and subsequent uncontrolled descent and collision with the water.

Aircraft: Cessna 150.

Location: Mazama, Wash.

Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Temperature was 88° F and the winds were from 300° at 3 knots at the time of take off. Airport elevation was 2,415 feet, and the density altitude was calculated to be approximately 5,000 feet. The pilot was attempting to take off from runway 29.

The pilot stated that there were no problems detected during the preflight inspection or the engine run-up. After liftoff the airplane climbed to treetop level, at which point a gust of wind pushed the airplane left toward trees bordering the runway. The pilot banked the airplane to avoid the trees, and the airplane stopped climbing. After “barely clearing” the trees at the end of the runway, the pilot elected to land as he was concerned the airplane might not clear trees located further ahead. He selected a stream bed for the emergency landing site. During the emergency landing, the airplane hit trees along the edge of the stream bed.

Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate compensation for the weather conditions and his failure to maintain the initial takeoff climb, which resulted in a collision with trees during an emergency landing.

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee Six.

Location: Point Lookout, Mo.

Injuries: 5 Fatal.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 220-hour pilot attempted to take off from a runway measuring 3,739 feet. According to a witness, the aircraft engine sounded like it was producing full power but the plane was more than half way down the runway before it became airborne. It then touched back down on the runway. The airplane swerved and began to skid. There was smoke coming from the tires, accompanied by a screeching sound. The airplane went off the departure end of the runway and plunged into a tree-lined ditch. It exploded and burst into flames. Tire skid marks were visible beginning 929 feet from the end of the runway. A post-accident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any pre-crash mechanical issues.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to attain adequate flying speed and his delay in aborting the takeoff, which resulted in an overrun of the runway.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Cooperstown, N.Y.

Injuries: 1 Serious.

Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: During the takeoff roll, the airplane veered sharply to the left. The pilot applied right rudder to realign the airplane on the centerline, and when the airplane did not respond, the pilot pulled back on the controls to lift the airplane off the runway. It momentarily lifted into the air, then came down hard on the runway.

No pre-accident mechanical deficiencies were found with the airplane.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed and premature rotation, which resulted in an inadvertent stall/mush and subsequent impact with the ground.

Aircraft: Cessna 182.

Location: Port Angeles, Wash.

Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Minor.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot had 668 hours and an instrument rating. The purpose of the night flight was so that he could ferry passengers to an airport some 25 miles away so they could meet friends. No flight plan was filed. Visibility at the time of the accident was reported as 10 miles in rain. There was no moon and there were reports of fog and low clouds in the vicinity. Shortly after take off, the pilot made a turn toward rising terrain. During the climb, the aircraft entered clouds. One passenger could see terrain on both sides of the aircraft and questioned the pilot as to what mountain she was seeing. The pilot responded “just a minute.” The plane then suddenly broke out of the cloud and the passenger could see trees in front of the airplane. The pilot pulled up, but the plane hit the tree tops and tumbled through the trees for several hundred feet before coming to rest.

Probable cause: The pilot’s VFR flight into instrument conditions and his failure to maintain clearance from trees.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.

Location: Olathe, Kan.

Injuries: None.

Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was attempting his third cross-country solo flight. The flight was normal until the landing. The student reported that he flared too high and the aircraft touched down hard and bounced several times. The airplane veered to the left of the runway and the left main landing gear and nose gear left the pavement. The post-flight inspection of the airplane revealed a propeller tip was bent. A subsequent inspection revealed the engine firewall was buckled.

Probable cause: The student pilot’s improper flare and failure to recover from a bounced landing.

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