Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 2 Serious. Location: Welch, W.Va. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: The pilot, whose student pilot certificate was expired, was practicing landings with a tailwind in the traffic pattern at a closed airport in an unregistered airplane.
According to FAA records, the airplane was registered to an individual in Georgia, but the airplane had been purchased by the pilot about a week before the accident. The most recent annual inspection was performed June 1, 2010, at 5,572 total aircraft hours.
The pilot refused to provide a statement, but a witness stated that the airplane was too fast on landing and too slow on climb-out after the landing was aborted. The airplane hit trees at the departure end of the runway, and then settled into trees below the elevated runway.
A post-crash examination of the wreckage revealed no mechanical deficiencies that would have precluded normal operation.
The Welch Municipal Airport was closed on March 15, 2007. The status of the airport was posted in the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and the runways were marked closed. City officials reported the pilot has operated aircraft from the airport since its closure and has continued to do so since the accident.
Probable cause: The unlicensed pilot’s decision to land on a closed runway with a tailwind, his failure to attain the proper touchdown point, and his delayed decision to attempt a go-around, resulting in a collision with trees.
NTSB Identification: ERA11LA168
This February 2011 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.