Aircraft: Cessna 172. Injuries: 3 Fatal. Location: Cold Springs, Nev. Aircraft damage: Destroyed.
What reportedly happened: The pilot held an instrument rating and was flying the airplane for the owner, who did not hold an instrument rating, from the departure airport, where instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, to another airport, which was reported as under visual flight rules.
Forecast weather conditions along the route of flight called for areas of mountain obscuration and precipitation, including snow.
The pilot filed an IFR flight plan and was issued an IFR clearance. About 44 minutes into the flight, the pilot canceled the IFR clearance and continued the flight under VFR. About 16 minutes later, the pilot amended the flight’s destination to an airport that was along the route of flight, but closer than the original destination.
About 19 minutes after that, the air traffic controller told the pilot that radar service was terminated. About 1.5 hours after radar service was terminated, the airplane crashed in mountainous terrain at an elevation of about 6,400 feet MSL.
The wreckage and the damage was consistent with controlled flight into terrain.
The accident site was located along the route of flight beyond the amended destination and about 20 miles short of the original destination, indicating that the pilot had overflown the amended destination and may have been attempting to reach the original destination.
About 30 minutes before the accident, light rain and mountain top obscuration were reported in the vicinity of the original destination airport. At the time of the accident, the original destination airport was reporting cloud layers with bases about 6,300 and 6,800 feet MSL. Investigators speculated that given the forecast and reported weather conditions, it is likely that the pilot encountered IMC and was unable to see the terrain prior to the airplane colliding with it.
The toxicology report for the pilot showed positive results for amphetamine, methamphetamine, and trimethoprim, an antibiotic used to treat infections. However, it could not be determined from available samples when the amphetamine and methamphetamine had been ingested, and, therefore, whether they would have impaired the pilot’s performance.
Review of the pilot’s medical records indicated that he had diabetes, and, one day prior to the accident, he had been treated for a skin infection. It is possible that the pilot was distracted by his medical condition and that this may have impaired his performance and contributed to his decision to continue the VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions.
Probable cause: The pilot’s continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a controlled collision with terrain.
NTSB Identification: WPR11FA241
This May 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.