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N21704 accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Jackpot, NV
41.983244°N, 114.674759°W
Tail number N21704
Accident date 03 Sep 1994
Aircraft type Cessna 172M
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On September 3, 1994, about 0200 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172M, N21704, collided with the ground during the climb to cruise phase following takeoff from Jackpot, Nevada. The aircraft was owned and operated by the T-Craft Aero Club of Nampa, Idaho, and was rented by the pilot for a personal cross-country flight. The aircraft was demolished in the impact sequence. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries; however, the two passengers on board incurred serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a VFR flight plan had been filed but not opened.

According to information developed with the assistance of the Elko County Sheriff's Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the flight had originated at Nampa on September 2, 1994, about 1800 hours. The pilot intended to fly to Jackpot in order to visit the casino at the airport. The airplane was due back at Nampa by noon on the day of the accident.

A security officer employed by the casino reported that he was near the advisory radio used for aircraft advisories at the airport. He observed the accident aircraft taxi out for departure and advised the pilot that takeoff was at his discretion and to notify him when the flight was leaving the area. He stated that the aircraft departed about 0200 and that the winds had been "up and down and coming from different directions." About 2 minutes later, the pilot reported airborne southbound and that he intended to turn to the north. No other transmissions were heard from the aircraft.

The passenger in the right front seat has no memory of the accident flight. The passenger in the rear seat was lying down on the bench seat and recalls the aircraft climbing. Sometime after takeoff, the passenger heard a "pop" sound followed immediately by ground impact.

Both of the passengers were trapped in the fragmented wreckage and were located about 1500 hours on September 3 by hunters passing by the field.

Ground witnesses described the general weather conditions at the time as clear with variable direction winds of changing intensity. The night was described as dark. The casino and small settlement of Jackpot are the only lighted areas out to the horizon from the airport and there are no other ground reference lights. A National Transportation Safety Board Sun/Moon Position computer program determined that the moon was about 15 degrees below the northeastern horizon at the time of the accident. Review of the non-instrument-rated pilot's logbook revealed that he had 21 total hours of night flying experience. The total combined actual and simulated instrument flight experience was found to be 2.5 hours, with no recent experience within the last 12 months.

The aircraft wreckage was examined by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector with the assistance of technical representatives from Cessna Aircraft and Textron Lycoming Engines.

The accident site is 2.5 miles south of the Jackpot airstrip in generally level, sparsely-vegetated terrain. A path of ground scars and wreckage debris was noted on a magnetic bearing of 280 degrees for a distance of 280 feet. The first identifiable ground scar consisted of a long, thin soil disturbance with red navigation light lens and plastic wing tip cap material. Thirty feet beyond the initial ground scar a large oval disturbance was noted which contained debris associated with the engine compartment and cockpit areas. The main wreckage mass was located 250 feet beyond the oval disturbance with the aircraft nose oriented to 060-degrees magnetic.

Fuel was found in the aircraft tanks. The flap actuator was observed in the retracted position. Both propeller blades exhibited leading edge damage, chordwise scoring, "S" twist deformation. No internal discrepancies were noted in the engine examination. Control cables were found attached at both the control surfaces and cockpit controls; however, complete system continuity could not be established due to the extent of fuselage fragmentation in the impact sequence.

The pilot sustained fatal injuries in the accident and an autopsy was conducted by the Elko County Coroner with specimens retained for toxicological examination. The results of the tests were negative for alcohol and all screened drug substances.

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control due to spatial disorientation during a moonless night departure over an area without ground reference lights. A factor in the accident was the pilot's lack of instrument training and experience.

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