This March 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 182. Injuries: 1 Fatal. Location: Lexington, Ky. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The instrument-rated pilot, who had logged 1,693 hours, contacted air traffic control shortly after takeoff in instrument meteorological conditions and advised the controller that he was having problems with the electrical system. He stated the engine was running fine, but that he might lose radio communication. Shortly afterwards, the plane began to deviate from its assigned course and heading until radio communications and radar contact were lost. A witness in the area of the accident stated that the airplane was circling and the engine sounded normal then he heard the plane hit the ground.
Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any pre-impact failures or malfunctions. Toxicological testing of tissue specimens from the pilot detected a prescription barbiturate typically used for severe headaches, bupropion, a prescription antidepressant also used for smoking cessation, and ethanol. The barbiturate detected was consistent with use within 24 hours before the accident, and studies have shown barbiturates can impair a pilot’s ability to fly. However, the actual level of barbiturate in the pilot’s system could not be determined because of the lack of fluids. It was not possible to estimate from the toxicology when the bupropion might last have been used, but this medication has been associated with an increased seizure risk. No fluids were available for analysis, so it could not be established whether the ethanol found was from ingestion. The pilot, a physician, had a history known to the FAA of alcohol abuse, but he did not note the use of any medications or any medical conditions on his most recent application for a medical certificate. The role of the pilot’s medications, possible medical conditions, or possible alcohol ingestion in the accident could not be determined.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane for undetermined reasons.
For more information: NTSB.gov