SEA02LA025
SEA02LA025

On January 9, 2002, approximately 1110 mountain standard time, a Cessna 210L, N1713X, impacted trees while the pilot was trying to execute a low-altitude course reversal in mountainous terrain about 40 miles southeast of Great Falls, Montana. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant, was not injured, but the aircraft, which was owned by Sletton Construction Company, of Great Falls, Montana, sustained substantial damage. The 14 CFR Part 91 business flight, which departed Great Falls in visual meteorological conditions about 25 minutes before the accident, entered an area of instrument meteorological conditions while en route to Cheyenne, Wyoming. No flight plan had been filed. The ELT was not set off by the impact, but was later activated by the pilot.

According to the pilot, while heading toward Cheyenne, lowering clouds, snow, and rising terrain made him stray from the route that he had planned. As he tried to maneuver through the mountainous terrain, he was initially able to stay below the clouds and clear of the ground. Eventually, he entered an area where his attempts to maintain clearance from the terrain resulted in the aircraft entering the bottom of the cloud layer. Because he was having trouble maintaining visual contact with the ground through the clouds and snow, he attempted to reverse his course, but clipped a tree during the turn. He immediately rolled the aircraft wings-level, and tried to maintain control as it collided with other trees and fell to the snow covered terrain. After the aircraft came to a stop, and the pilot assured himself there was not going to be a fire, he activated the ELT.

Around 0700 on the morning of the accident, the pilot called Great Falls Automated Flight Service Station for a weather briefing. At that time, he was advised that his planned route of flight was forecast to be VFR at the time he intended to depart. About 90 minutes prior to his departure, the pilot called back for an update briefing. He was then advised that although the route was still forecast to be mostly VFR, there was now an update that showed possible areas of mountain obscuration. At that time, the briefer advised the pilot that VFR flight was not recommended in areas of the forecast mountain obscuration.

In the Operator Safety Recommendation portion of the NTSB Form 6120.1/2 (How Could This Accident Have Been Prevented), the pilot stated, "Pilot should have turned around and gone back when weather deteriorated."

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