NTSB Identification: ERA10LA105
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, January 04, 2010 in Greenbush, ME
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/21/2010
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N5118J
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.

The pilot was attempting an instrument flight rules (IFR) transoceanic ferry flight in a new Cessna 172S. The flight had been delayed several days due to weather, and the pilot was anxious to return home to the United Kingdom, as his daughter was having surgery. The airplane was equipped with an approved auxiliary fuel tank, which resulted in a gross weight that was 30 percent higher than the published maximum gross weight for the airplane. The higher gross weight was also approved under a special airworthiness certificate; however, the operating limitations for that certificate included, "15. Avoid moderate to severe turbulence." Additionally, the pilot contacted a flight service station and was aware of airmen's meteorological information (AIRMET)s for IFR conditions, moderate turbulence below 11,000 feet, and moderate ice below 13,000 feet, with the freezing level ranging between the surface and 2,500 feet. All three AIRMETS were in effect at the time of departure and the pilot was also aware of cloud and precipitation locations. The airplane flew about 25 miles northeast of the departure airport, then reversed course when the pilot could no longer maintain an altitude of 6,000 feet mean sea level (msl) and was having difficulty controlling the airplane in turbulence and icing conditions. The airplane flew approximately 7 miles after the course reversal, descending to 1,200 feet msl, until radar contact was lost. A witness reported that the airplane flew overhead about 100 to 200 feet above ground level, with continuous engine noise, until it impacted a river. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. Light snow and drizzle prevailed at the time of departure.

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

The pilot's improper decision to attempt a transoceanic flight in turbulent, icing conditions, with an overweight airplane that was not approved for moderate turbulence and not equipped with deicing systems. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's personal pressure to return home.

Full narrative available

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