The flight instructor and student pilot departed for an instructional flight from an airport on Catalina Island en route back to their home airport on the mainland.
A review of radar data indicated that the Cessna 172 took off with its transponder in the “off” position, so no altitude information was available.
The data indicated that, after taking off, the airplane flew north. The track ended three minutes later over open water about five miles north of the departure airport.
After the plane was reported missing, a search ensued. Although an oil slick consistent with drift models was present in this area, neither the airplane nor the occupants were found.
Four minutes before the airplane took off, the reported weather at the departure airport included nine statute miles visibility and a broken cloud ceiling at 800′ above ground level (agl). However, the remarks section reported that the ceiling varied between 600′ and 1,000′ agl. In addition, satellite imagery indicated that there was a thick marine layer just north of the airport.
Probable cause: Undetermined because the airplane was not located.
NTSB Identification: WPR16FAMS1
This May 2016 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.