NTSB Identification: ERA09FA215
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 25, 2009 in Lexington, KY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/15/2009
Aircraft: CESSNA 182Q, registration: N4871N
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.

Shortly after takeoff, and while operating in instrument meteorological conditions on an instrument-rules flight plan, the pilot contacted air traffic control (ATC). The pilot advised the ATC controller that his "engine was fine, but that his battery was draining" and that he may "lose radio communication." Shortly afterwards, the airplane began to deviate from its assigned course and heading until radio communications and radar contact were lost. A witness in the area of the accident stated that the airplane "flew over his home and made two circles in approximately 30 seconds." The witness added that "the airplane sounded very close, and the engine sounded normal," before he heard the airplane impact the ground. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any preimpact failures or malfunctions. Toxicological testing of tissue specimens from the pilot detected butalbital, (a prescription barbiturate typically used for severe headaches) bupropion, a prescription antidepressant also used for smoking cessation, and ethanol. The butalbital detected was consistent with use within 24 hours before the accident, and studies have shown butalbital can impair a pilot's ability to fly; however, the actual level of butabital in the pilot's system could not be determined because of the lack of fluids. It was not possible to estimate from the toxicology when the bupropion might last have been used, but this medication has been associated with an increased seizure risk. No fluids were available for analysis, so it could not be established whether the ethanol found was from ingestion. The pilot, a physician, had a history (known to the Federal Aviation Administration) of alcohol abuse, but the pilot did not note the use of any medications or any medical conditions on his most recent Application for Airman Medical Certificate. The role of the pilot’s medications, possible medical conditions, or possible alcohol ingestion in the accident could not be determined.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane for undetermined reasons.

Full narrative available

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