NTSB Identification: LAX08LA231
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, July 18, 2008 in Benson, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/13/2009
Aircraft: Nichols Rans, Inc. S-14, registration: N923GN
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

Local area residents driving on a road toward the airport saw the tail of an airplane sticking out from behind an adjacent hill. They hiked out to the site over flat desert terrain, found the accident airplane and fatally injured pilot, then notified authorities. The airplane came to rest about 1 mile east of the destination airport. Ground scars and wreckage signatures showed a high-angle, low-energy impact in a steep nose-down, left-bank attitude that is consistent with an in-flight loss of control and a stall/spin. The pilot's handheld global positioning system (GPS) unit was recovered in the wreckage and the information was downloaded. Several trail points were identified; however, the unit did not record date and time stamps so no airspeed or altitude points were available. The recorded trail data only contained latitude and longitude information. The data points showed a downwind departure from the flight’s origin airport and then stopped just short of the approach end of the runway, near where the accident occurred. The distance between the two airports was approximately 50 nautical miles, with the destination airport east-southeast of the departure airport. The pilot had not filed a flight plan and fueled the airplane about 2 hours before the wreckage was discovered, but it is not clear at what time he departed for his flight. Postaccident toxicology testing was consistent with the use of marijuana within about an hour of the accident. Such recent use, and the levels of the substance found, indicate likely impairment of the skills related to piloting an aircraft. Toxicology testing also found diazepam, a prescription anti-anxiety medication commonly known by the trade name of Valium, at levels consistent with ingestion more than 24 hours prior to the accident, but unlikely to have been impairing.

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

The pilot’s failure to maintain an adequate airspeed while maneuvering for landing, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and subsequent loss of control. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's impairment from recent marijuana use.

Full narrative available

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