NTSB Identification: WPR11FA430
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 04, 2011 in Tehachapi, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/22/2014
Aircraft: CESSNA P210, registration: N7WJ
Injuries: 2 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’s friend, who was also a pilot, observed the airplane flying around his home. He noted that the landing gear and flaps were partially down and that he saw the pilot wave his hand out his window. Shortly after, the airplane turned west, and the landing gear began to retract. The friend returned to his previous activities, and, within seconds, he heard a “whump” followed by silence. He moved to a better vantage point and observed smoke in the direction of his last observation of the airplane. A pilot-rated witness at the local airport reported that he was familiar with the surrounding area and noticed that the airplane was flying low and that it then started flying up a valley between two ridgelines, disappeared from his sight behind the nearest one, and, about 20 seconds later, he saw smoke. The airplane collided with trees, and it was destroyed in a postcrash fire. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failure that would have precluded normal operation.
The autopsy found no evidence of a recent or acute coronary event or the presence of medications that would have affected the pilot’s performance. Further, the witness statements did not suggest acute incapacitation or sudden severe impairment, and evidence suggests the pilot was manipulating the controls just before impact. Thus, it is likely that the pilot was distracted with waving to his friend on the ground and failed to maintain sufficient altitude while maneuvering at low altitude.

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

The pilot’s intentional low-altitude maneuvering and failure to maintain clearance from terrain due to distraction.

Full narrative available

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