Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Controlled Flight Into Terrain: Cessna R182 Skylane RG, N3167C; fatal accident occurred March 28, 2018 in Ashville, St. Clair County, Alabama

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Birmingham, Alabama
Lycoming; Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Oklahoma

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms 

Location: Ashville, AL
Accident Number: ERA18FA118
Date & Time: 03/28/2018, 1223 CDT
Registration: N3167C
Aircraft: CESSNA R182
Aircraft Damage:Destroyed
Defining Event: Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


On March 28, 2018, about 1223 central daylight time, a Cessna R182, N3167C, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Ashville, Alabama, shortly after takeoff from Northeast Alabama Regional Airport (GAD), Gadsden, Alabama. The private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was privately owned and was being operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which was destined for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), New Orleans, Louisiana.

According to a review of air traffic control transcripts obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot contacted Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM), Birmingham, Alabama, shortly after departure. The pilot reported that he was 7 miles south of GAD and climbing through 700 ft to 2,500 ft and requested flight following. The airport tower controller gave the pilot a transponder code and the pilot advised the code was "in the box." There were no further communications with the pilot.

The pilot was reported missing by family members when he did not arrive at MSY. An alert notice was issued and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center alerted the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) to the missing airplane. The CAP began a ground and air search on March 29, which was limited due to poor weather conditions. On March 30, about 1815, a CAP airplane spotted the wreckage and guided ground crews to the location.

Brett James Leistyna, 52, of Los Angeles.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. His most recent FAA third-class airman medical certificate was issued on May 30, 2017, with the limitation, "Must have available glasses for near vision. Not valid for night flying or by color signal control." At that time, he reported 425 total hours of flight experience. A review of the pilot's logbooks revealed that he had accumulated about 638 total hours of flight experience.

A coworker of the pilot stated that he and the pilot worked the night before the accident from 2130 to 0230, then went back to the hotel. They met the next morning, the day of the accident, at 0700. He stated he did not sleep much the night before and believed the pilot slept even less because he had been up working after they returned to the hotel.


The four-seat, high-wing, retractable-gear airplane was manufactured in 1978. It was powered by a Lycoming O-540, 235-horsepower engine. According to airplane maintenance records, an annual inspection was completed on September 19, 2017, at 2699.4 total aircraft hours.


At 1156, the weather conditions reported at GAD included wind from 210° at 11 knots, gusting to 17 knots; 10 statute miles visibility; few clouds at 4,000 ft; temperature 24°C, dew point 16°C; and an altimeter setting of 30.09 inches of mercury.


The field elevation at GAD was 569.2 ft mean sea level (msl), the minimum safe altitude in the area was 2,200 ft msl.


The initial tree impact occurred on flat, heavily-wooded terrain at an elevation of about 525 ft. The trees were about 50 ft tall. About 15 ft beyond the initial tree impact was an additional tree strike, with a portion of a wing strut in the top branches. A portion of the right elevator was located in an adjacent tree about 40 ft high. The wreckage path was about 200 ft long; the main wreckage came to rest on a heading of 210°. The main wreckage was about 140 ft from the initial tree strike and comprised the cockpit, portions of the fuselage, wings, and empennage. All flight control surfaces were located at the accident site. Sections from the top and bottom of the fuselage, cockpit instruments, and the cockpit panel were located along the debris path. The rudder control cables were connected in the cockpit and empennage. The aileron cables were separated from the cockpit controls; the aileron bellcranks were not located.

The propeller was separated from the engine and located about 20 ft beyond the main wreckage; two of the three blades remained attached to the propeller hub and the hub remained attached to the propeller flange. The separated blade was found adjacent to the main wreckage. All three of the propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouging and trailing edge S-bending. The engine was separated from the airframe and located farthest from the initial tree strike. In addition, several pieces of the impacted tree exhibited 45° angular cuts consistent with propeller contact.

The left main landing gear remained attached to the fuselage and was in the extended position. The nose and right main landing gear were separated.

The cockpit instruments were heavily damaged. The dual magneto remained attached to the engine and was impact damaged. Water and mud were present when the magneto was removed from the engine, and no spark was produced when it was rotated by hand. The spark plugs from cylinder Nos. 1, 3, and 5 appeared normal. The upper spark plugs from cylinder Nos. 2 and 4 were soaked with oil and covered with dirt and the No. 6 upper spark plug was dark gray. The lower spark plugs from cylinder Nos. 2, 4, and 6 were not removed.

The engine was rotated by hand 350°. Cylinder Nos. 1, 3, and 5 were removed and continuity of the crankshaft and camshaft were confirmed by visual examination. No damage was noted to the valves pistons or connecting rods. The oil suction screen and the oil filter were absent of debris. The oil cooler was impact damaged.

The fuel selector handle was separated from the fuel selector valve. The carburetor was fractured and separated from the engine; disassembly revealed no damage to the float. The induction air box was crushed and the position of the carburetor heat selector was undetermined. The engine-driven fuel pump remained attached to the engine and no damage was noted.

The starter was impact-damaged and partially separated from the engine. The vacuum pump remained partially attached to the engine; the composite drive assembly and the carbon vanes were intact and the carbon rotor was fractured.


An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences Medical Examiner's Office, Huntsville, Alabama. The cause of death was blunt force injuries.

Toxicology testing performed at the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory identified 11 mg/dL of ethanol in the liver but not in the muscle, which was consistent with postmortem production. Testing also identified 0.0458 µg/ml 11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC), marijuana's primary active metabolite, in the liver and 0.0079 µg/ml in the lung. In addition, 0.907 µg/ml 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH), marijuana's primary inactive metabolite, was detected in the liver and 0.0832 µg/ml in the lung; 0.0064 µg/ml delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 9-THC), marijuana's primary impairing psychoactive drug, was detected in the liver and 0.0458 µg/ml in the lung.

Blood was not available for toxicology testing. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 52, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s):None 
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/30/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  638 hours (Total, all aircraft), 547.9 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N3167C
Model/Series: R182 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1978
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: R18200247
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 09/19/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2699.4 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-540
Registered Owner: MONTANA GROUP LLC
Rated Power: 235 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GAD, 569 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1156 CDT
Direction from Accident Site: 42°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 11 knots / 17 knots
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 210°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 30.09 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 16°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: GADSDEN, AL (GAD)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: NEW ORLEANS, LA (MSY)
Type of Clearance: VFR Flight Following
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 33.895556, -86.161389

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