This May 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 T206. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Borrego Springs, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed
What reportedly happened: The pilot was a member of the California Highway Patrol and was flying as part of a traffic surveillance detail. About 40 minutes after the mission was to be finished, the pilot had not checked in.
Six hours later, the wreckage of the airplane was located at approximately 1,100 feet MSL on the east face of a 1,500-foot high mountain.
Recorded radar data showed that the autopilot-equipped airplane initially flew along a highway at 1,600 feet MSL heading north and then turned to the southwest about 20 minutes after the mission was to be finished. The airplane then proceeded on a steady course of 225° magnetic at 1,200 feet MSL directly toward rising mountainous terrain. The final radar return occurred three minutes later, 1.7 miles northeast of the accident location.
The autopsy on the pilot noted severe atherosclerotic coronary artery disease and evidence of scarring from a prior heart attack.
The radar track information was consistent with the autopilot controlling the airplane with an absence of pilot control inputs. There was no indication in the pilot’s medical records that he was aware of any heart disease. The pilot had spinal surgery approximately one year prior to the accident, and did have continual intermittent pain, with a recent exacerbation of that pain, but it is unlikely that the pain was sufficiently distracting or impairing to have resulted in the complete absence of control.
Probable cause: The pilot suffered a sudden incapacitating event as a result of his severe cardiovascular disease.
For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10GA231
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