Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 4 Fatal. Location: St. George, Utah. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: Prior to the flight, the pilot and passengers were at a party, during which time the pilot and all but one passenger (the designated driver) consumed multiple alcoholic beverages.
They left to go to another party and while en route, the vehicle was pulled over by a police officer. During the diversion, the group agreed to instead go to a nearby city to gamble.
The flight departed around 1:20 a.m. An airport video recording that captured the takeoff revealed that the airplane remained either on the ground or in ground effect for over two-thirds of the length of the runway, consistent with the pilot attempting to gain airspeed in the overweight airplane. The airplane then aggressively pitched nose up and climbed out of view of the camera.
Seconds later, the airplane reappeared in a near-vertical descent into the dirt area at the end of the runway, most likely due to an aerodynamic stall during the steep climb.
A review of the pilot’s toxicological tests found that the post-mortem blood ethanol level was 0.105%, which is more than twice the FAA limit of 0.04%.
Investigators determined that it is likely that the consumption of alcohol affected his judgment, and therefore contributed to the accident. Additionally, investigators determined that the airplane was 160 pounds over its maximum gross weight.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during an aggressive pitch-up maneuver, which resulted in a low-altitude aerodynamic stall shortly after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s impairment from alcohol and an over-gross-weight airplane.
NTSB Identification: WPR12FA230
This May 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.