NTSB Identification: WPR11FA241
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 28, 2011 in Cold Springs, NV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/02/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA R172K, registration: N9831V
Injuries: 3 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.

The pilot, who held an instrument rating, was flying the airplane for the owner, who did not hold an instrument rating, from the departure airport, where instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, to another airport, where visual meteorological conditions prevailed. Forecast weather conditions along the route of flight called for areas of mountain obscuration and precipitation, including snow. The pilot filed an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan, and he was issued an IFR clearance. About 44 minutes into the flight, the pilot canceled the IFR clearance and continued the flight under visual flight rules (VFR). About 16 minutes later, the pilot amended the flight’s destination to an airport that was along the route of flight, but closer than the original destination, and about 19 minutes after that, the air traffic controller told the pilot that radar service was terminated. About 1.5 hours after radar service was terminated, the airplane impacted mountainous terrain at an elevation of about 6,400 feet mean sea level (msl). The wreckage was confined to the impact area, and the damage was consistent with controlled flight into terrain. The accident site was located along the route of flight beyond the amended destination and about 20 miles short of the original destination, indicating that the pilot had over flown the amended destination and may have been attempting to reach the original destination. About 30 minutes before the accident, light rain and mountain top obscuration were reported in the vicinity of the original destination airport. At the time of the accident, the original destination airport was reporting cloud layers with bases about 6,300 and 6,800 feet msl. Given the forecast and reported weather conditions, it is likely that the pilot encountered IMC and was unable to see the terrain prior to the airplane colliding with it.

The toxicology report for the pilot showed positive results for amphetamine, methamphetamine, and trimethoprim, an antibiotic used to treat infections. However, it could not be determined from available samples when the amphetamine and methamphetamine had been ingested, and, therefore, whether they would have impaired the pilot’s performance. Review of the pilot's medical records indicated that he had diabetes, and, one day prior to the accident, he had been treated for a skin infection. It is possible that the pilot was distracted by his medical condition and that this may have impaired his performance and contributed to his decision to continue the VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions.

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

The pilot's continued visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in a controlled collision with terrain.

Full narrative available

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