NTSB Identification: LAX03LA003.
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Accident occurred Monday, October 07, 2002 in Avalon, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/28/2004
Aircraft: Cessna 140, registration: N90168
Injuries: 1 Serious.

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 was spotting fish for a boat and lost radio communication. In an attempt to reestablish contact, he attempted a series of low altitude passes. A box pattern was set up, and several attempts to communicate were made without success. The pilot decided to try to drop a message into the boat. The pilot said that he was distracted by the task and fatigued by the nearly 3-hour flight and did not maintain sufficient altitude. When he realized that a collision with the water was imminent, he added power and pulled back on the control yoke but was unable to avoid contact with the ocean surface. He stated that prior to impact, all controls were functioning and responsive and that the engine was operating smoothly and gave no indication of a malfunction. The only anomaly that the pilot could recall was that the engine did not seem to respond after he added power seconds before impact. Due to the low altitude the pilot did not have time to send out a distress call or troubleshoot the engine's lack of response.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain sufficient altitude while maneuvering at low altitude. Factors were the pilot's fatigue and the distraction of trying to drop a message onto a boat.

Full narrative available

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