NTSB Identification: ATL91LA139.
The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 45760.
Accident occurred Monday, July 22, 1991 in SYLVA, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/10/1993
Aircraft: CESSNA 172P, registration: N52433
Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

THE PILOT AND TWO OBSERVERS WERE ON A MISSION TO SEARCH FOR MARIJUANA PLANTS GROWING IN A MOUNTAINOUS CANYON. DURING SLOW FLIGHT, THEY ENCOUNTERED A DOWNDRAFT. THE AIRSPEED DECAYED, AND ESCAPE ROUTES FROM THE CANYON WERE NO LONGER AVAILABLE. THE PILOT SLOWED THE AIRCRAFT AND GUIDED IT INTO THE TREES. FOLLOWING THE COLLISION WITH TREES, THE AIRPLANE FELL TO THE GROUND BELOW. THE INVESTIGATION REVEALED THAT THE TEMPERATURE AT THE TIME WAS 92 DEGREES, AND THE AIRCRAFT WAS NEAR MAX GROSS WEIGHT. DENSITY ALTITUDE WAS ABOUT 6,000 FEET. INSPECTION OF THE WRECKAGE REVEALED NO EVIDENCE OF MECHANICAL MALFUNCTION OR FAILURE, AND NO MECHANICAL PROBLEMS WERE REPORTED BY THE PILOT.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

THE PILOT'S IMPROPER IN-FLIGHT PLANNING, AND HIS FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A PROPER ALTITUDE WHILE MANEUVERING IN THE CANYON. FACTOR(S) IN THIS ACCIDENT WERE: THE MOUNTAINOUS, BOX CANYON CONDITIONS, THE HIGH DENSITY ALTITUDE, AND THE DOWNDRAFT CONDITIONS AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT.

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