This October 2008 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: 1 Fatal. Location: Mt. Dora, N.M. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot had over 5,000 hours of total flight time. He was a native of the area and owned land in the vicinity of the accident site. Family members of the pilot reported that he flew, on average, twice a week and was very knowledgeable of the local area. The pilot had a long history of rheumatoid arthritis and back pain, and was on multiple medications, including two different narcotic painkillers.
The pilot’s medical condition and prescription medications were not disclosed on his most recent application for his medical certificate, but it was noted that he had disclosed it on previous applications and the FAA had not requested any further information.
Family members said the pilot had experienced an increase in pain within a month of the accident.
On the day of the accident the pilot departed his home airfield under VFR conditions. Shortly after departure, the aircraft hit the side of a nearby mountain. There were no indications of loss of control or of any pre-impact anomalies with the airframe or engine.
The post-accident toxicology testing indicated the presence of a third narcotic painkiller and a short-acting local anesthetic in his system at the time of the accident, suggesting the possibility of additional treatment for his pain within a few days of the accident. Toxicology testing was also consistent with the ingestion of at least 10 tablets of a prescription narcotic painkiller within the two hours prior to the accident. Investigators determined that the circumstances of the accident, in which this experienced pilot flew directly into clearly visible elevated terrain with no discovered anomalies with the airplane, could suggest an unknown cockpit distraction, impairment, or an intentional act. However, the investigation could not conclusively determine the specific cause of the accident.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from rising terrain for undetermined reasons.
For more information: NTSB.gov