NTSB Identification: ERA09LA413
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, July 18, 2009 in Ponce, PR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2010
Aircraft: CESSNA 152, registration: N5518P
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.

Shortly after the pilot took off in night conditions from a coastal island airport the airplane impacted the sea. There was neither low-level radar coverage of the area nor any known radio transmissions from the airplane. The pilot had intended to fly along the coast, toward his home airport to the west, but his body was recovered near the mouth of a river south of the departure airport. The only airplane wreckage recovered was a tire. The pilot, who had a reported 162 hours of flight experience, obtained his private pilot certificate about 6 weeks before the accident and purchased the airplane about 4 weeks before the accident. The pilot had delayed his flight for several hours due to en route weather and had declined several offers of ground transport. Weather at the time included a few clouds at 3,000 feet and visibility of 8 miles. Two tenths of the moon was illuminated. The departure airport had one runway, and with the prevailing winds, the pilot likely took off from runway 12, which would have resulted in a turn over water, back toward the west. Given the pilot’s relatively low experience level, the overwater flight path and the dim lighting conditions, spatial disorientation likely resulted. However, because the airplane was not recovered, a mechanical anomaly cannot be excluded.

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

The airplane’s impact with water for undetermined reasons.

Full narrative available

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