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N480DW accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location 37.731111°N, 117.237777°W
Nearest city Goldfield, NV
37.708544°N, 117.235634°W
1.6 miles away
Tail number N480DW
Accident date 08 Jun 2002
Aircraft type Cessna 172S
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 8, 2002, about 1200 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172S, N480DW, collided with terrain during initial climb from the Goldfield (uncontrolled) Airport, in Goldfield, Nevada. The private pilot and three passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. The personal flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane was operated by Sawyer Aviation Training Center, Inc., in Scottsdale, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, prior to departure he had calculated the airplane's weight and balance. In order not to exceed the airplane's maximum certificated gross weight, he had limited the fuel load to between 15 and 20 gallons. He opined that the airplane's weight was within 200 pounds of its maximum certificated gross weight. The pilot reported that the temperature at Goldfield was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The pilot also reported that he had observed the airport's windsock, and he elected to takeoff utilizing a short field procedure on runway 35. The wind was nearly calm.

The pilot reported that he had positioned the wing flaps to the 10-degrees setting, and while holding the brakes he applied full engine throttle and leaned the mixture to achieve maximum rpm. Then he released the brakes. The surface wind remained nearly calm, and the sky condition was clear. No evidence of a wind gust, blowing dust, or a dust devil was observed. The airplane accelerated on the runway until reaching the 60-knot rotation speed, and then it lifted off the ground. Nothing unusual occurred until climbing about 100 feet. At that altitude, the pilot indicated that he retracted the wing flaps and the airplane suddenly rolled. The pilot opined that it felt as though he had experienced an extremely strong wind gust and turbulence that caused the airplane to suddenly bank to the left. After a short period, he was able to level the airplane. However, by that time the airplane's altitude and airspeed had decreased and it was settling toward the ground. Although the airplane was unable to climb, he was able to level its wings seconds before it impacted the dirt berm.

The pilot also reported that he did not have any previous experience taking off from the Goldfield Airport. Additionally, he had never before attempted to takeoff under these combined high density altitude and gross weight conditions. His total piloting experience in the Cessna 172 was about 106 hours.

According to airplane recovery personnel, the airplane came to rest approximately 0.79 nautical miles and 348 degrees from the Goldfield Airport. The accident site elevation was about 5,550 feet msl.

Goldfield airport's elevation is 5,680 feet msl. Runway 35 has a gravel surface and is 3,150 feet long. The nearest airport that reports weather is located at Tonopah, Nevada, elevation 5,426 feet msl. Tonopah is located about 22 miles north of Goldfield. At 1156, Tonopah reported a 10-knot surface wind from 240 degrees; altimeter 29.79 inches of mercury; and the temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The National Transportation Safety Board investigator estimates that, at the time of the accident, the density altitude at Goldfield was at least 8,000 feet.

In the pilot's completed "Aircraft Accident Report," NTSB Form 6120.1/2, he reiterated the verbal statement he made to the Safety Board investigator. The pilot indicated his belief that the airplane had encountered an extremely strong wind gust and turbulence immediately after takeoff that caused the airplane to roll violently to the left. He also acknowledged that after a short period he was able to level the airplane. But, by that time, the airspeed and altitude had become critical.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a high density altitude takeoff. Contributing factors were the pilot's lack of experience in the type of operation and a wind gust.

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