Pre-solo flight ends in fatalities

This December 2009 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: Piper Tomahawk. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Ojai, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The purpose of the flight was for the flight instructor to evaluate the student for a pre-solo training flight. Radar data indicated that the airplane maneuvered in the vicinity of the accident site for 22 to 24 minutes. It then descended from 3,500 feet, at approximately 660 feet per minute, until 2,000 feet was reached and radar coverage was no longer possible.

A witness, located at an adjacent school playground, reported that the airplane approached her position at a very low altitude. She did not hear any engine noise. As the airplane approached within a half mile of her position, she heard noises she thought sounded like the pilot trying to start the engine. She then heard the engine running and saw the airplane turn toward rising terrain. The engine noise stopped and she lost sight of the airplane shortly before it crashed.

Documentation of the wreckage indicated that the airplane collided with the terrain in a nearly vertical attitude. The temperature and dew point weather conditions were plotted on a carburetor icing chart, which indicated serious icing at glide power conditions. The loss of engine power, as reported by the witness, was likely due to carburetor icing.

Probable cause: Airspeed was not maintained, which resulted in a loss of control and the airplane entering into a stall/spin to the ground. Contributing to the accident was a loss of engine power due to carburetor icing.

For more information:; NTSB Identification: WPR10FA078

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