NTSB Identification: DEN08FA036.
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Accident occurred Wednesday, November 28, 2007 in Farmerville, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/30/2008
Aircraft: Cessna 182Q, registration: N5134N
Injuries: 1 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.

The commercial pilot was supposed to be performing a flight to patrol a pipeline. However, he was flying in an erratic manner away from the pipeline he was suppose to be patrolling. In telephone communications with the pipeline company, he seemed "weird and disorientated." The airplane collided with trees and was destroyed by impact and post-impact fire. Examinations of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures. Post-accident toxicological tests on specimens from the pilot found a blood ethanol level of 373 mg/dL (0.373 percent), and a urine ethanol level of 556 mg/dL, indicating that the pilot's blood level had been higher than 0.556 percent at some time within the previous 6 to 8 hours. Toxicology tests also detected a very high level of citalopram, a prescription antidepressant, and its metabolites in the pilot's blood, consistent with either ingestion of larger than typical amounts or accumulation of the substance as a result of liver impairment. On his most recent FAA application for a medical certificate less than one month prior to the accident, the pilot reported one Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction, which occurred less than 1 year prior to the accident; the FAA medical records contained no details of that DUI, but a review of publicly available court documents for the conviction noted that the pilot's blood alcohol concentration was 0.31 percent during that arrest. The pilot denied any history of alcohol dependence, abuse, or of mental disorders on his most recent application for medical certificate, though his employer was aware of his attendance at a rehabilitation program due to alcohol problems in 2006. The FAA specifically disqualifies pilot applicants with a history or clinical diagnosis of substance dependence, which is defined in 14 CFR 67.107, 67.207, and 67.307 as "evidenced by (A) increased tolerance, (B) manifestation of withdrawal symptoms, (C) impaired control of use, or (D) continued use despite damage to physical health or impairment of social, personal, or occupational functioning." Had the FAA obtained details regarding the pilot's DUI conviction and/or contacted the pilot's employer, the FAA would have been aware that this pilot met the FAA's definition for substance dependence, and he likely would have not been issued a medical certificate without having undergone thorough evaluation and additional treatment.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control due to the effects of impairment from alcohol consumption resulting in the collision with the trees.. A contributing factor was the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to identify existing evidence of substance (alcohol) dependence in this commercial pilot due to an inadequate and incomplete process of screening medical applications.

Full narrative available

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