CFIT after failure to climb

This April 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Cessna 172.
Location: Page, Ariz.
Injuries: 2 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The two private pilots had flown to Colorado to visit relatives. The accident occurred during their return flight. Both were current in the airplane. The pilot in the left seat had 220 total flight hours, of which 111 were in cross-country flying. The pilot in the right seat had 79 hours, including 22 cross-country. Before taking off from a fuel stop at an elevation 4,316 feet MSL, the fuel tanks were topped off. This increased the airplane’s gross weight to within 100 pounds of its certificated maximum weight.

The pilots took off under a clear sky with at least 10 miles visibility on a westerly course toward Nevada, then entered an area of rapidly rising terrain. The flying pilot failed to initiate a climb in sufficient time to avoid the mountainside in a box-like canyon. Investigators determined that the pilot was attempting to reverse course when the airplane stalled and hit a rocky outcrop.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain an adequate terrain clearance altitude and his failure to maintain an adequate airspeed while maneuvering to reverse course in a box canyon.

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