Pilot can’t out-climb terrain

This June 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 175. Injuries: None. Location: Huntsville, Utah. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot took off from an airport in mountainous terrain. After takeoff he began a southbound climb until he felt that sufficient altitude had been gained to maintain terrain clearance.

He then turned to the north-northeast and continued to climb as he followed a canyon. As he flew up the valley he elected to follow the northwestern side, expecting to gain extra lift from the wind.

He reported that the airplane was climbing, but as the valley narrowed, the climb rate decreased and then the airplane began to descend. He began to shift to the other side of the valley, which only increased the rate of descent.

Despite the application of full power, the airspeed and altitude continued to decrease. The stall warning horn periodically activated as the pilot attempted to avoid trees. The airplane hit a tree and nosed over, resulting in substantial damage.

Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate clearance from terrain during climb.

For more information: NTSB.gov. NTSB Identification: WPR10CA320



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  1. Deputy_Don says

    I live in Huntsville and have flown the same route this pilot took.  The pilot overestimated the performance of his older Cessna while operating in mountainous terrain.  He entered Middlefork Canyon too low and counted on conditions that didn’t exist to extract him from his mistake.  The canyon is wide and there’s plenty of room to turn around, but for whatever reason he tried to shoot over the top and didn’t make it.  A 175 is no Raptor.  Glad everybody is OK.

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