Density altitude, too much flap for Cessna

Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: None. Location: Price, Utah. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: It was a hot day when the pilot landed on a 3,600-foot-dirt strip at a field elevation of approximately 5,891 feet, then decided to take off again.

He reported he took off with 20° of flaps and was never able to get more than 10 feet above the runway surface area. At the end of the runway he noticed two dirt berms about 3 to 4 feet high. He pulled back on the yoke, missing the first berm, but the airplane settled back down and struck the second one. The Cessna nosed over onto its back.

The pilot operating handbook (POH) states that soft or rough field takeoffs should be performed with no more than 10° of flaps. Furthermore the airport’s density altitude at the time of the accident was calculated to be approximately 10,000 feet, which is 2,000 feet above the maximum altitude listed in the takeoff performance charts in the POH.

Probable cause: The pilot’s decision to attempt a takeoff at a density altitude outside of the takeoff performance envelope of the aircraft, along with using a flap setting higher than the manufacture’s recommended setting for takeoff.

NTSB Identification: WPR11CA295

This June 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. Barry says

    This is a clear problem of the pilot not knowing how to handle high density altitude. I do have an issue with what the NTSB said about taking off outside of the “takeoff envelope” If the POH stopping at 8,000 feet is a limitation, none of us out west could fly. Even the POH for a many turbo charged aircraft stop at 8,000 feet. This appears to have nothing to do with performance, maybe it’s that way to make the lawyers happy.

  2. says

    This is a no-brainer.please let this be a lesson to all low performance plane drivers! It’s because of this clown that we’re all paying higher insurance premiums in Utah .thank God no one got killed!

    • RudyH says

      Yeh, another low performance zoomie….no prior planning/preparation = accident guaranteed…..nothing changes…..

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