The pilot and three passengers boarded the Cessna 172 for a flight at night near Willoughby Hills, Ohio.
The controller cleared the flight for takeoff and observed the airplane lift off about 2,000 feet down the runway.
Shortly after liftoff, the pilot contacted the controller and reported that the airplane was not “climbing fast” and that he wanted to make a left turn to return to the airport. The controller approved the left turn and observed the airplane begin a left turn and descend to impact with the terrain, killing all four aboard.
A post-impact fire ensued.
Examination of the accident site indicated that the airplane impacted in a steep descent.
The witness observations and the impact geometry are consistent with the pilot failing to maintain adequate airspeed while turning to return to the airport, resulting in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall.
Weight and balance calculations showed that the airplane was between 93.6 and 165.6 pounds over maximum gross weight at the time of the accident.
The decreased takeoff climb performance reported by the pilot was likely due to the airplane’s over gross weight condition.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane while returning to the airport immediately after takeoff, which resulted in the airplane exceeding its critical angle of attack and entering an aerodynamic stall during the turn. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight planning, which resulted in the airplane being over maximum gross weight and its subsequent decrease in takeoff climb performance.
NTSB Identification: CEN14FA453
This August 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.