Impaired pilot stalls aircraft

This April 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: CX-5. Injuries: 2 Fatal. Location: Ghent, N.Y. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: Following two uneventful flights, the pilot and passenger took off. The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single and multi-engine land, airplane single engine sea, and instrument airplane. The pilot’s logbook was not found, however on his most recent second-class medical certificate application on May 8, 2009, he reported 3,200 hours.

Witnesses described a takeoff and initial climb sequence that was consistent with an aerodynamic stall, then the airplane hit the ground in a nose-down attitude and caught fire.

No pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures were discovered during the examination of the wreckage.

Toxological testing of the pilot was positive for ethanol, a prescription opioid narcotic known to impair the mental and or physical abilities required for the performance of hazardous tasks, and a prescription antidepressant. While some of the ethanol detected in the testing may have been produced postmortem, the measured serotonin metabolite ratio implied alcohol consumption by the pilot in the 16 hours prior to the accident flight. Given the pilot’s long-term, chronic narcotic use, he may have developed some tolerance to the sedating, mental, and physical effects associated with the detected quantity of the drug. Although the investigation was unable to determine the degree of the pilot’s impairment, since the concentrations of the prescription opioid narcotic detected were well above a normal therapeutic range, it is likely that the pilot was impaired.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during the initial climb, resulting in an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s impairment.

For more information: NTSB Identification: ERA10LA206



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