This January 2009 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: Hardin, Ky. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The private pilot, 50, had logged 102 hours of total flight experience, 63 as pilot in command. In the 90 days preceding the accident he logged 1.3 hours of flight. The day before the accident, he went to the airport and rented the airplane with the stated intention to perform three takeoffs and landings to retain currency because he intended to fly to another city to visit his daughter.
The pilot subsequently called his daughter and stated that he was not going to make the flight. However, the following morning he took off before sunrise. He flew approximately 50 nautical miles, and then turned around and flew back toward the departure airport. When the airplane was approximately 10 miles from the departure airport, it entered a near vertical descent in excess of 6,000 feet-per-minute, and crashed in a nose-low, wings-level attitude.
A mayday call from the pilot was heard on emergency frequency 121.5 by two separate airline crews and relayed to air traffic controllers. The airline crews reported the pilot said the aircraft was out of control and also mentioned his elevator controls.
Examination of the airplane and engine revealed no pre-impact mechanical issues. Toxicological testing performed on the pilot revealed marijuana in the pilot’s blood and lung tissue. The testing results suggested use of the illegal drug within about three hours of the accident, likely impairing him during the flight.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain aircraft control and his impairment from illegal drug use.
For more information: NTSB.gov