Get-there-itis kills one

This January 2010 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. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Greenbush, Maine. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The 77-year-old pilot, who had logged more than 14,000 hours, was attempting a west to east IFR transoceanic ferry flight in a new Cessna 172.

The flight from the factory in Kansas to Maine had been uneventful. The airplane was equipped with an auxiliary fuel tank, which resulted in a gross weight that was 30% higher than the published maximum gross weight for the airplane. The higher gross weight was also approved under a special airworthiness certificate, however, the operating limitations for that certificate included, “Avoid moderate to severe turbulence.”

The flight across the Atlantic had been delayed several days due to weather. The pilot was anxious to return home to the United Kingdom because his daughter was having surgery. He obtained a preflight briefing from a flight service station and was advised of AIRMETs for IFR conditions and moderate turbulence below 11,000 feet, moderate ice below 13,000 feet, with the freezing level ranging between the surface and 2,500 feet. All three AIRMETS were in effect at the time of departure.

The airplane flew about 25 miles northeast of the departure airport, then reversed course when the pilot could no longer maintain an altitude of 6,000 feet MSL and was having difficulty controlling the airplane in turbulence and icing conditions. He reported uncommanded bank angles in excess of 90°. The airplane was about 18 miles from the airport when it descended off the radar. A witness reported that it flew overhead about 100 to 200 feet above ground level, with continuous engine noise, until it hit a river.

Probable cause: The improper decision to attempt a transoceanic flight in turbulent, icing conditions, with an overweight airplane that was not approved for moderate turbulence and not equipped with deicing systems. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s personal pressure to return home.

For more information: NTSB Identification: ERA10LA105


  1. Doug Rodrigues says

    Considering the 30% overload, I’m surprised the plane managed to climb to 6,000 feet within that first 25 miles?

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