NTSB Identification: MIA05FA140.
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Accident occurred Saturday, July 30, 2005 in Key West, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/25/2007
Aircraft: Cessna 172S, registration: N65982
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Adverse weather delayed the instrument rated but not instrument current pilot's departure to her home airport. Additionally, lodging accommodations in Key West could not be obtained. The pilot elected to depart in night visual flight rules (VFR) conditions for a nearby airport at approximately 2118. After takeoff, while flying over water during the dark night, the pilot established two-way radio communications with Navy Key West Approach Control. The radar facility did not receive the assigned discrete transponder code (0210), despite several attempts by the controller to get the pilot to reset the transponder. The pilot did not make any distress calls. The aircraft crashed into the Straits of Florida, and some of the wreckage was located the following day. Several days later the majority of the wreckage was located; the left wing was not recovered. Examination of the recovered wreckage revealed no evidence of pre-impact failure or malfunction of the flight controls, engine, airframe, and attitude gyro. No evidence of fire or sort was noted on any of the recovered components. The transponder was found set to "SBY" or standby position; the transponder does not transmit in that position. No servicing or maintenance was performed to the airplane while at Key West. During the inbound flight into Key West, the flight was radar identified using the transponder. Prior to departure, the pilot talked with a dispatcher from the operator and did not advise that person of any discrepancy related to the airplane.

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

The failure of the pilot-in-command to maintain directional control of the airplane during the dark, night flight over water, resulting in the uncontrolled descent and in-flight collision with the water. A contributing factor in the accident was the pilot's distraction with the inappropriately set transponder.

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