This December 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 172. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Lompoc, Calif. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot, who had logged about 793 hours, was attempting to land. According to witnesses, the airplane was about 50 feet AGL and seemed very slow as it approached the runway. There were power lines with orange marker balls on the uppermost wire between the plane and the airport. The plane passed between the upper and lower wires, caught the lower wires, then hit the ground.
No evidence of any pre-impact discrepancies was found during examination of the airframe. While several anomalies were noted with the engine’s ignition system, investigators determined they would not have prevented the engine from operating and producing power. The minimal damage to the propeller suggests the engine was operating at a low power setting at the time of ground impact. The throttle was found in the idle position. The investigation did not find a mechanical reason for a loss of power. Investigators surmised it is likely the pilot intentionally reduced power.
The post-accident investigation revealed that the pilot’s medical certificate had expired in 2007, and he had not had a flight review since 2007. Hydrocodine, a prescription narcotic painkiller, was found in the pilot’s system. However, it was not determined when the pilot might have taken medication or whether he could have been impaired by its use.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from the power line. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of recent experience.
For more information: NTSB.gov