The student pilot departed on a local, solo instructional flight in the Cessna 172. According to the flight instructor, the student was briefed to complete three takeoffs and landings and to stay in the airport traffic pattern.
Instead, he completed one takeoff and landing and then departed the airport traffic pattern.
Witnesses reported seeing the airplane in level flight about two hours later over the ocean 20 miles from the departure airport in Elliott Key, Florida.
Two witnesses said that the airplane’s nose “pitched up” momentarily before it descended vertically at “full power.”
One witness described the sound of the engine as “wide open” and noted that it was accelerating throughout the descent.
All of the witnesses said that the airplane went “straight down” and that it did not rotate.
The student pilot was killed in the crash.
Examination of the wreckage revealed damage consistent with a vertical descent at high speed.
For the airplane to descend straight down, the forward pressure on the yoke must be increased proportionally with the increase in airspeed. If control positions remained constant, the dive would shallow out as it progressed.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the airplane’s vertical descent into water for reasons that could not be determined because postaccident airplane examinations revealed no mechanical anomalies.
NTSB Identification: ERA14LA346
This July 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.