On September 17, 1999, at 1435 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N2339E, descended into the ground during an attempted go-around from a landing approach to runway 31 at the Castle Airport, Merced, California. The aircraft, owned and operated by the Modesto Flight Center and rented by the pilot under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, sustained substantial damage. The private pilot and a passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions existed for the personal flight that had originated at the Modesto, California, airport at 1400 on the day of the accident. The flight was scheduled to terminate at the Modesto Airport.

Wind conditions reported from a weather observation facility located at the Modesto Airport, approximately 23 nautical miles from the accident location, were from 300 degrees at 11 knots.

The airport manager reported winds at Castle airport were from the northwest, gusting to 5 knots.

The pilot reported that the flight to Castle airport was uneventful. On final approach, about 30 feet above the ground, he noted a strong quartering left headwind and corrected accordingly. After straightening the nose, a gust of wind pushed the left wing up, and blew the airplane off the runway. The pilot stated that he attempted to land, and when it became evident that he would not land on the runway, he applied full throttle and pushed the carburetor heat in to go around. He reported that he felt the airplane was going to stall because of the high angle of attack on the go-around, and he "threw the flaps all the way up . . . " He stated that the airplane did not have enough lift and the airplane impacted the ground from about 50 feet.

The passenger reported that on final approach the pilot had commented that the windsock was indicating a crosswind.

In an interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot stated that he had received his private pilot certificate that morning and was taking his father on his first flight as a private pilot. The pilot stated that they were going to go to Castle airport to do a touch-and-go and then return to Merced. The pilot further reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions with the airplane or engine.

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