On June 7, 2004, about 1355 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172L, N7668G, impacted the ramp area during an attempted landing at the Santa Ynez Airport, Santa Ynez, California. Red Baron was operating the rental airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot and two passengers sustained minor injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan had not been filed. The personal flight originated from the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, Santa Barbara, California, about 1145, for a local scenic flight.

During a telephone conversation with a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, the airport manager reported that she and a certified flight instructor (CFI) had witnessed the accident. She stated that during the initial climb from runway 26, about 100 feet above ground level (agl), the airplane began to pitch into a nose-high attitude. The airplane's nose then dropped into a nose-low configuration and impacted the ramp tie-down area just north of the runway.

The day following the accident, a Safety Board investigator spoke with a passenger who was in the back seat of the airplane. She recalled that the flight departed from Santa Barbara and continued around the Santa Ynez area for a short duration before the pilot elected to return to Santa Barbara. Upon entering the vicinity of the airport, the pilot could not establish radio communications with the air traffic controllers due to an apparent radio failure. With the heavy aircraft congestion at the Santa Barbara airport, the pilot opted to divert to the Santa Ynez airport.

The passenger further stated that on the approach to the airport, the airplane descended to just above the runway surface and then pitched up to the right in a nose-high attitude. The airplane then turned to the left and the nose dropped, impacting the ground shortly thereafter. The passenger added that just prior to impact she heard a sound in the cockpit, akin to a loud "eeeeeee."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector examined the wreckage several hours after the accident occurred. He stated that the airplane had come to rest in a tie-down area just north of runway 26, situated in a 20-degree nose low attitude. The airplane was resting on its left side with the nose positioned on a heading of 230 degrees; the left wing incurred more crush damage than the right. After completing a precursory examination of the cockpit area, he noted that the transponder code was set to read "7600." The tachometer indicted a total time of 3012.9 hours, which equated to a total flight duration of 1.54 hours (the airplane's flight log indicated a tachometer reading of 3,011.36 prior to the accident flight).

The FAA inspector further reported that he spoke with the pilot in the emergency room on the day of the accident. The pilot stated that while attempting to land, with the airplane positioned above the surface of runway 26, the airplane began to drift to the right, and the nose pitched up. He opted to abort the landing and perform a go-around by applying full power. The nose of the airplane continued to pitch up and the left wing stalled; the airplane dove toward the surface in a left, nose-low descent. The pilot added that his total flight experience was 123 hours, of which 6 hours were accumulated in the same make and model.

In a written statement, the pilot reported that he approached the Santa Ynez Airport with the airplane's radios inoperative. While on short final approach, about 15 to 20 feet agl, a gust of wind lifted the left wing and shifted the airplane from the runway's centerline. The pilot manipulated the throttle control full forward in an effort to obtain the maximum power setting and execute a go-around. The airplane stalled and impacted terrain.

At the time of the accident, the weather observation facility (aviation routine weather report, METAR) at Santa Ynez reported wind from 300 degrees at 13 knots, gusting to 21 knots; sky condition clear; temperature 23 degrees Celsius; dew point 6 degrees Celsius; and an altimeter setting of 29.92 inches of mercury.

A representative from Cessna Aircraft Company examined the wreckage several days after the accident occurred. He stated that the wing flap actuator jackscrew measured about 5 inches, which corresponded to a flap extension of 30 degrees (full flap extension correlates to 40 degrees). The elevator trim measured about 1.4 inches, which corresponded to the neutral position.

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