Get home-itis kills three

Aircraft: Cessna 182. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Adrian, Ore. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: According to family members, the 133-hour pilot and his two passengers, both relatives of the pilot, departed Nampa Municipal Airport in Idaho en route to Portland, Oregon, to attend a memorial service and a funeral.

The pilot did not have an instrument rating. He landed at Madras, Oregon (about 120 miles east of Portland) because the weather had deteriorated. He told the airport manager that he had attempted to get to Portland but the weather was too poor. He planned to refuel and “try again.”

The airport manager persuaded the pilot out of a second try to make it to Portland by air, because it was already dark and the pilot was flying under VFR. The manager said that at first the pilot was adamant about trying again to get through to Portland by air, but ultimately the manager was able to convince the pilot to drive the manager’s car to Portland free of charge, and to bring it back the next day with a full fuel tank. The pilot and his passengers left the airplane at Madras, and continued on to Portland in the manager’s car.

The next day the pilot and his passengers returned to Madras shortly before dark, picked up the airplane and launched for home. There was no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing prior to departure or of contacting ATC en route for weather updates or assistance.

The next known location of the airplane was at Ontario Airport in Oregon, to refuel. The airport is approximately 40 miles from the pilot’s home field. One of the passengers sent a text message to a family member saying that they were at Ontario getting fuel, and that they would be back in Nampa in about 20 minutes.

At the time of the accident the weather in the valley between the Ontario airport and the home airport varied from clear skies to a solid overcast cloud layer. There were some areas covered by patchy ground fog and mist.

After takeoff, the pilot flew in a southerly direction along the western edge of the valley. As he continued to the south, he reached a location where the western edge of the valley is defined by a steeply rising line of hills. At that point he turned about 10° to the east and crashed in steeply rising terrain. The impact ground scars were consistent with the airplane being in a wings-level attitude, with the engine at cruise power or greater.

No pre-crash mechanical malfunctions were found. Investigators determined that it is likely that the pilot failed to see the terrain and inadvertently flew into it while in cruise flight.

Probable cause: The non-instrument-rated pilot did not maintain sufficient altitude to clear mountainous terrain while in cruise flight in the dark.

NTSB Identification: WPR11FA116

This January 2011 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.


  1. Dennis says

    John: I was a member of the Hickam-Wheeler Aero Club at that time, and I vividly remember the accident, too. In fact, I had logged some time in N1169U just before the accident. I remembered seeing the pieces of the plane after the crash.

  2. Vaughn S. Price says

    Classic!! If only Flight instructors and examiners would explain to applicants that they need to know that they do not have to be anywhere, and if they can’t understand this, they will be listed in the obituaries. and most likely they will take someone they dearly love with them. I always gave my graduates a strong understanding of exactly where they were on the ladder of experience and skills, hoping their ego would not take over until they had at least a few hundred hours of caution under their seat belts

    • John says

      Almost the same scenario occurred back in early 1993, to one of the brand new pilot’s in our Air Force Aero Club, located at Hickam AFB, Hawai’i. He had just passed his check-ride, and had logged only a handful of hours since earning his pilot’s certificate. He took one of his friends, a fellow military member who had been on temporary duty at the base, for a ride around the West coast of O’ahu, then up toward the North Shore. It was a night flight, with some cloud cover. The pilot apparently thought he’d bank to the right, and fly back toward Honolulu over the pineapple fields, which were located between two distinct sets of mountains. Unfortunately, he turned too late, overshot the pineapple fields, and caught the top 50 feet or so of the eastern mountains. A video camera recovered from the crash site had a working tape, which showed them being very relaxed during the flight, with little notice of the impending crash. It’s been 20 years since that accident, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

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