By BILL SCHROEDER, For General Aviation News
While departing a high-density-altitude airport, a Cessna 177RG, with four people on board, climbed about 50 feet but did not accelerate. The airplane was observed descending before hitting trees about ½ mile off the departure end of the runway.
Weight and balance computations placed the airplane over maximum allowable gross weight. Density altitude was computed at 8,493 above mean sea level. The airport, at 6,264 feet msl, is known for its high-density altitude and downdrafts at the end of the departure runway.
Probable cause of the accident, according to the NTSB, was the pilot’s decision to take off, over maximum allowable gross weight, from a high-density-altitude airport. Other factors? The high-density altitude, down drafts and the pilot’s lack of familiarity operating from high density altitude airports.
The pilot’s logbook revealed that his only experience operating at an airport with a field elevation over 3,000 feet above sea level was one takeoff and landing at an airport with a field elevation of 3,996 feet. As a result of this pilot’s actions — and inexperience — he and his three passengers were killed.
When it comes to high-density altitude training, one takeoff and one landing does not meet any acceptable standard of performance. That’s why all pilots planning to fly in mountainous regions should go through a comprehensive training program. The checkout should consist of a combination of ground and flight training that takes at least eight hours to complete.