The commercial pilot departed in the light sport, amphibious airplane during daytime visual meteorological conditions to perform a new employee familiarization flight with the passenger, who the company had recently hired.
A witness, who was in a boat on Lake Berryessa in California, reported seeing the ICON A5 flying about 30 to 50 feet over the water at what appeared to be between 30 to 40 mph. As the airplane passed by the witness and entered a nearby cove, which was surrounded by rising terrain on either side and at its end, he heard the engine “rev up and accelerate hard” as the airplane approached the right side of the canyon “in what appeared to be an effort to climb out of” the canyon.
Subsequently, the airplane climbed to about 100′ above the water and entered a left turn as it began to descend before it flew beyond the witness’s field of view. The witness stated that he heard the sound of impact shortly after losing sight of the airplane.
Review of recorded data from two separate recording devices installed in the airplane revealed that, about 15 minutes after departure, the airplane started a descent from 3,700′ GPS altitude. About seven minutes later, it had descended to 450′ GPS altitude and turned to a northerly heading, staying over the water between the shorelines.
About 46 seconds later, at a GPS altitude of 450′ and 54 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS), the airplane entered the cove. About 20 seconds later, engine power was increased, and the plane began to climb while it turned slightly right before initiating a left turn. The airplane reached a maximum GPS altitude of 506′ before it began to descend.
Shortly after, the airplane hit terrain at a GPS altitude of 470′ and 66 KIAS. Both the pilot and passenger were killed in the accident.
Postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of any preexisting mechanical malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation.
It is likely that the pilot mistakenly thought the canyon that he entered was a different canyon that led to the larger, open portion of the lake.
Additionally, it is likely that, once the pilot realized there was no exit from the canyon, he attempted to perform a 180° left turn to exit in the direction from which he entered.
Based upon performance information outlined in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, the airplane’s altitude above the water’s surface and its indicated airspeed, and the ridge line elevations in the area adjacent to the accident site, the airplane would have not been able to climb out of the rising terrain that surrounded the area, which led to his failure to maintain clearance from terrain.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s mistaken entry into a canyon surrounded by steep rising terrain while at a low altitude for reasons that could not be determined.
NTSB Identification: WPR17FA101
This May 2017 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.