NTSB Identification: DEN02LA083.
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Accident occurred Friday, July 26, 2002 in Georgetown, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/01/2003
Aircraft: Cessna 172S, registration: CGKRA
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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 said he departed and planned to follow Interstate 70 to his destination. He said his cruise altitude was 10,500 feet, or "until higher was necessary." He said he was navigating with a World Aeronautical Chart (a visual flight rules [1:1,000,000] navigation chart). The pilot said, "after approximately 30 minutes of flight, I became aware of the narrowing of the valley and the significant rising ground elevation." When the Eisenhower Tunnel (11,000 feet) became visible, he "realized more altitude was required, but full throttle could only produce minimal positive climb." The pilot said he considered a 180 degree turn, but was concerned about stalling in such a tight turn. He "decided to try climbing through a cleared ski run, just left off I-70," but subsequently impacted rising terrain at 11,500 feet (14,992 feet density altitude). Both wings suffered rib and spar damage, the cabin overhead was bent, and the engine firewall exhibited crushing. The airplane's Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) states that the service ceiling for this airplane was 14,000 feet.

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

the pilot's inadequate preflight planning for a flight through high mountainous terrain, and the pilot committing himself to a mountainous flight path where terrain clearance was not possible. Contributing factors were the high density altitude weather condition, and the rising mountainous terrain.

Full narrative available

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