NTSB Identification: LAX08FA256
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, August 04, 2008 in Gearhart, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/14/2009
Aircraft: CESSNA 172K, registration: N828CC
Injuries: 5 Fatal,3 Serious.

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 pilot took off in the morning without filing a flight plan for the planned cross-country flight. Weather in the vicinity of the airport was less than 3 miles visibility with overcast clouds at 300 feet above ground level. The overcast layer extended from 300 feet to 2,600 feet. Aircraft flight data was recovered from a handheld GPS unit that was onboard the airplane. The data disclosed that the airplane climbed to 412 feet mean sea level (msl) on a northerly heading, then entered a climbing left-hand turn that tightened into a climbing spiral. The airplane reached 1,350 feet msl before entering a rapid spiraling descent and colliding with a vacation home about 1 mile northwest of the airport. These GPS flight track data suggested that the pilot may have become spatially disoriented during the initial climb.

A post impact fire destroyed the house and airplane. The pilot held an instrument airplane rating; however, a review of his personal flight records was unable to establish that he was current with his instrument flight experience. The majority of the airplane was destroyed by the post impact fire. In the small portions of wreckage that could be examined, no mechanical anomalies were identified.

Post-accident toxicology testing detected a low level of zolpidem, a prescription sleep aid often known by the trade name Ambien, in the blood of the pilot. The source from which the blood sample was taken was not documented, however, and no conclusive determinations can be made regarding when the pilot may have last used the medication or whether he may have been impaired by its use. The medication would not typically be expected to result in impairment more than 6 hours after a dose, and the U.S. military permits flight duties as soon as 6 hours after the use of zolpidem.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control during the initial climb after takeoff due to spatial disorientation.

Full narrative available

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