The commercial pilot departed on a fire detection flight for a state fire commission using a predetermined flight route. He was receiving flight-following services from the dispatch center and was reporting his flight progress to a dispatcher.
He reported entering the eastern boundary of the forest district near Oden, Ark., and then turning north toward the next checkpoint. Five minutes later, he reported that he was turning back due to low cloud ceilings. About 14 minutes later, the Cessna 210 hit trees on a ridgeline, which had an elevation of 1,473 feet. The pilot was killed in the accident.
A post-accident examination of the propeller revealed damage consistent with a medium-to-high power setting at impact. Although the plane was equipped for flight in instrument meteorological conditions, the instruments required for instrument flight were not maintained to those standards, so the plane was limited to flight in visual flight rules conditions only.
Surface weather reports indicated low cloud ceilings of 700 to 1,100 feet above ground level along most of the route of flight. Wave clouds and associated turbulence also existed in the area about the time of the accident.
A surface weather reporting station located 21 nautical miles west of the accident site and within the planned route of flight was reporting clouds overcast at 500 feet at the time of the accident.
The fire commission’s aviation department did not use flight risk assessments.
No record was found indicating that the pilot received a preflight weather briefing, however, it could not be determined if the pilot obtained weather information using other sources.
Toxicological testing detected nortriptyline, which can be impairing, in the pilot’s liver; however, no evidence was found indicating that the nortriptyline impaired his decision-making or flying skills at or around the time of the accident.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident as the pilot’s improper decision to fly into an area with reported marginal meteorological conditions in an airplane not maintained for instrument flight and his subsequent failure to maintain clearance from trees and terrain.
NTSB Identification: CEN14GA135
This January 2014 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.