Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, N474SP: Accident occurred November 30, 2017 near Freeway Airport (W00), Bowie, Prince George's County, Maryland

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Baltimore, Maryland

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Goddard Aircraft Club Inc:

Location: Bowie, MD
Accident Number: GAA18CA074
Date & Time: 11/30/2017, 1745 EST
Registration: N474SP
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

The pilot reported that, during approach to land in night conditions, he noticed that the airspeed displayed on a newly installed electronic flight instrument was reading slightly different than the airspeed indicator. He added that his altitude judgement was affected "by the scarcity of observable objects in the landing area, the "black hole" effect, which was likely worsened by the brightness of the [electronic instrument]". When the pilot looked up from the instrument panel, he saw tree branches approaching. The airplane struck the trees and came to rest inverted.

The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's failure to maintain situational awareness during the approach to land. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's distraction by the instrument panel during the approach.


Personnel issues
Situational awareness - Pilot (Cause)
Attention - Pilot (Factor)

Environmental issues
Tree(s) - Effect on operation

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 72, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 06/30/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 06/27/2017
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 345 hours (Total, all aircraft), 300 hours (Total, this make and model), 300 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 7 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 4.2 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N474SP
Model/Series: 172 S
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1998
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 172S8020
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/08/2017, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines:  1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 5890.1 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: Installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: IO-360-L2A
Rated Power: 180 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: CGS, 48 ft msl
Observation Time: 2246 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 270°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C / 6°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots, 130°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.05 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:

No Obscuration; No Precipitation

Departure Point: Ocean City, MD (OXB)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Bowie, MD (W00)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 1610 EST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

Airport Information

Airport: FREEWAY (W00)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 168 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 18
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 2420 ft / 40 ft
VFR Approach/Landing:  Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries:  1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  38.945556, -76.773333 (est)

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