Drugged pilot crashes stolen airplane

Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Fresno, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: At the time of the accident the 52-year-old pilot did not possess a valid pilot’s certificate. According to FAA records, he had been issued a student pilot certificate and third class medical in November 1987. At that time, he indicated he had about 25 total hours of flight time, all of which had occurred within six months preceding the medical examination. The pilot’s student pilot certificate was revoked by the FAA in March 1988.

On the day of the accident, the non-certified pilot took the airplane without permission.

A witness on the ground saw the airplane flying about the height of nearby power lines and noted that the engine sounded as if it was sputtering. The plane banked into the power lines, then crashed to the ground.

The post-accident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

Toxicology results indicated that methamphetamine and amphetamines were detected in the pilot’s blood and liver. Local authorities also reported finding a plastic bag containing “crystal meth” in the airplane. Both detected drug quantities were above therapeutic levels and likely contributed to the pilot’s performance and failure to maintain sufficient clearance from the power lines.

Probable cause: The non-certificated pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from power lines. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s impairment due to performance-impairing drugs.

NTSB Identification: WPR12LA093

This February 2012 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. John says

    Why couldn’t the idiot druggie just steal a F-150 pick up and drive it into a wall instead of taking a 172 with him? There are millions of F150’s and not that many 172’s to cover the idiot population.

    • Ilya Haykinson says

      Sadly, I bet that if there was a General Truck News website out there publishing such articles, you’d probably see hundreds of these druggie-stole-F150-crashed-into-wall stories every week.

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