MIA02LA031
MIA02LA031

On November 23, 2001, about 0640, Atlantic standard time, a Cessna 172M, N61582, registered to, and operated by a private individual, as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, crashed into a lake in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The private-rated pilot and one passenger received minor injuries, and the aircraft incurred substantial damage. The flight originated from San Juan, Puerto Rico, the same day, about 0610.

The pilot stated that while at an altitude of 900 feet, he performed three 360-degree turns to the left at a speed of 85 knots, using 45 degrees of bank. The pilot further stated that as soon as he had finished maneuvering, he applied full power with the intention of climbing to 1,000 feet. He said that as he manipulated the control to remove the bank, the control jammed, and he was only able to make pitch control changes, but was unable to recover from the left bank. He said the aircraft entered a spin and descended, colliding with the water.

According to an FAA inspector who interviewed the pilot, the pilot stated that he had departed early in the morning in order to catch the sunrise and take aerial photographs. The inspector said that the pilot further stated that during the flight, his passenger had fallen asleep in the front seat next to him, and as he was maneuvering the aircraft into a turn at an altitude of about 700 to 900 feet, the control yoke became jammed, and the aircraft entered a spin and crashed into a lake, flipping over on its back. The inspector said that pilot stated that he and his passenger then swam through the doors, and escaped the sinking aircraft. According to the inspector, the impact separated the wings from the remainder of the fuselage, and during his postaccident examination of the flight control system, the inspector also said that he found damage consistent with overstress. The inspector further stated that there was no evidence of any preaccident mechanical malfunction to the flight control system.

Information provided by the U.S. Customs Service showed that an aircraft had been observed at 200 feet, operating in an area consistent with where the accident aircraft was later found. In addition, both the U.S. Customs report and a Puerto Rico Police Department report revealed that there was a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the pilot, but that the pilot had refused requests that he submit to an alcohol test.

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