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: 2 Serious. Location: Joshua Tree, Calif. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The CFI and a student pilot took off on an instructional flight from a non-towered airport at an elevation of 2,464 feet MSL. They planned to fly to a towered airport located at an elevation of 477 feet MSL about 27 miles away. Terrain in the vicinity of the flight path was depicted on the aeronautical chart with peak elevations between 5,600 and 5,800 feet MSL. En route, the pilots climbed to at least 6,000 feet MSL and encountered several layers of clouds.
At their destination airport, several layers of clouds were reported at elevations of 3,800, 5,000, 6,500 and 7,500 feet MSL The student pilot reported that while en route there were clouds above, below, and at the airplane’s cruise altitude with the visibility from a half mile to one mile. Just before the accident, the CFI was flying the airplane and trying to fly around the clouds. The airplane hit a mountain at 5,250-foot MSL.
Probable cause: The CFI’s decision to continue visual flight into deteriorating weather, which resulted in his inadvertent encounter with instrument meteorological conditions and subsequent failure to maintain clearance with terrain.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10LA115