Saturday, December 14, 2019

Loss of Control in Flight: Cessna 172L Skyhawk, N7239Q; fatal accident occurred June 22, 2018 near Diamondhead Airport (66Y), Hancock County, Mississippi

View of Main Wreckage as Found - Federal Aviation Administration

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Jackson, Mississippi
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Diamondhead, MS
Accident Number: ERA18FA174
Date & Time: 06/22/2018, 0659 CDT
Registration: N7239Q
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On June 22, 2018, at 0659 central daylight time, a Cessna 172L, N7239Q, was destroyed when it collided with trees, powerlines, and terrain during the initial climb after takeoff from Diamondhead Airport, Diamondhead, Mississippi. The student pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was owned by the student's flight instructor, who was the operator of the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 solo instructional flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed.

According to the student pilot's flight instructor, the purpose of the flight was to conduct solo traffic pattern work at the airport. The student pilot was to conduct full-stop landings and taxi back to the approach end of the runway before initiating the next takeoff. The flight instructor also stated that the student pilot was "not supposed to perform" touch-and-go landings.

A police detective saw the airplane while he was traveling westbound on the interstate near the departure end of runway 36. He said that the airplane appeared over the interstate, just above treetop height, traveling "slowly" northbound.

The witness used a model airplane to show that, as the accident airplane crossed the roadway, the nose pitched up from a level attitude. Once the airplane was across the interstate and above the trees on the north side, the nose gradually pitched down as the airplane rolled and turned to the left until it was out of view below the trees. The witness stated that his car was directly abeam the airplane at that time and that he saw smoke above the trees when he was about 1/2 mile past the accident site. The witness stated that he used the radio in his car to contact police dispatch about the accident. The accident was reported to 911 at 0659:03.

Radar data obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) depicted that the airplane was first detected on radar at 0628:28 then completed four left-hand traffic patterns. The last radar return was at 0658:24, near the end of the fourth approach; the airplane was at an altitude of 225 ft mean sea level (msl) and was 1,100 ft from the approach end of the runway. No further radar targets were associated with the accident airplane.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 69, 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: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/01/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 169 hours (Total, all aircraft), 169 hours (Total, this make and model)

The student pilot was issued an FAA third-class medical and student pilot certificate in September 2017. A review of his logbook revealed that he had accrued 169.1 total hours of flight experience. His first solo endorsement was dated June 12, 2018, after he had accrued 164.9 hours of flight experience.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N7239Q
Model/Series: 172 L
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17260539
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/01/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2299 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4898 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-320-E2D
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 160 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

According to FAA records, the accident airplane was manufactured in 1972. Its most recent annual inspection was completed on October 1, 2017, at 4,8984 total aircraft hours.

The Cessna 172 owner's manual stated the following about wing flap settings:

Normal and obstacle clearance take-offs are performed with wing flaps up. The use of 10° flaps will shorten the ground run approximately 10%, but this advantage is lost in the climb to a 50-foot obstacle. Therefore, the use of 10° flaps is reserved for minimum ground runs or for take-off from soft or rough fields. If 10° of flaps are used for minimum ground runs, it is preferable to leave them extended rather than retract them in the climb to the obstacle. In this case, use an obstacle clearance speed of 65 MPH. As soon as the obstacle is cleared, the flaps may be retracted as the airplane accelerates to the normal flaps-up climb speed of 80 to 90 MPH.

During a high altitude take-off in hot weather where climb would be marginal with 10° flaps, it is recommended that the flaps not be used for take- off. Flap settings of 30 ° to 40 are not recommended at any time for take-off.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KHSA, 23 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1150 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 270°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.93 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 24°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Diamondhead, MS (66Y)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Diamondhead, MS (66Y)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0659 CDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

At 0650, the weather recorded at Stennis International Airport, Kiln, Mississippi, which is 3 miles west of the accident site, reported clear skies and calm winds. The temperature was 24°C, the dew point was 24°C, and the altimeter setting was 29.93 inches of mercury.

The calculated density altitude at the time of the accident was 1,100 ft.

View of Angularly Cut Tree Trunk Sections at Site - Federal Aviation Administration

View of Left Wing Leading Edge as Found - Federal Aviation Administration

Airport Information

Airport: DIAMONDHEAD (66Y)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 14 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 36
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3800 ft / 75 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Traffic Pattern

Diamondhead Airport was at 14 ft elevation and positioned between Interstate 10 and Cutoff Bayou. Runway 36/18 was 3,800 ft long and 75 ft wide. Runway 36 ended immediately prior to Interstate 10, which was a four-lane divided highway oriented east-west.

View of Angular Cut to Fractured Tree Trunk at Site - Federal Aviation Administration

View of Engine after Recovery - Lycoming

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 30.369167, -89.390556

The wreckage was examined at the site, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. The wreckage path was oriented along a magnetic heading of about 210° and was about 75 ft in length. The airplane came to rest upright and was oriented along a 098° magnetic heading. Several pieces of angularly cut wood, some of which were greater than 8 inches in diameter, were scattered around the airplane.

The cockpit, cabin area, right wing, and the empennage were consumed by a postcrash fire. The left wing displayed uniform crushing along the leading edge. Striation marks and tearing along the leading edge, consistent with contact with a wire, were visible. The tail section showed thermal damage but was mostly intact.

The engine was exposed, the propeller remained attached, and each displayed significant thermal damage. The right magneto and oil filter were separated from the engine, and the left magneto remained secure in its mounts.

The engine was rotated by hand through the vacuum pump pad. Continuity was confirmed through the accessory section to the valve train and power train. Thumb suction and compression were observed at all cylinders except for the No. 2 cylinder. The No. 2 cylinder intake valve appeared not fully seated. The cylinder was removed and checked for leaks with water. Water drained from the intake port with only valve-spring tension applied to the valve stem. The valve was "staked" using a mallet, and, when water was again poured into the interior of the cylinder, no liquid was observed draining out of the intake port. Coking on the intake valve stem was consistent with the valve in an open position while exposed to the postimpact fire.

Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit area to the flight control surfaces or their associated hardware and attachment points. The flap actuator jackscrew was intact and measured in its as-found condition. Measurement of the exposed threads corresponded with a full-flap, 40° extension setting. 

View of Flap Actuator as Found - Federal Aviation Administration

Medical And Pathological Information

The Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office, Pearl, Mississippi, performed a pathological examination of the pilot and determined his cause of death as blunt force injuries with thermal injuries.

Toxicology testing performed at the FAA's Forensic Sciences Laboratory found that the pilot's specimens tested negative for drugs and ethanol.


  1. 170 hrs and still a STUDENT pilot???
    Dude you were not made for it. If you did go for boating or RVing you'll still be alive.

  2. I have to agree wit MarcPilot. Maybe being a Private Pilot just wasn’t in the cards for this guy but he apparently was determined to succeed at it. Unfortunately he didn’t. RIP.

  3. $25K for nine months of rental and (unnamed) instructor fees!

  4. A Cessna 172 won't climb worth a damn with full flaps. It just won't.

  5. Even worse than MarcPilot had stated --- not that he was still a student at 170 hours but he had his first solo at 165 hours.

  6. A student came to us after accruing 50 + hours elsewhere, without solo ... I just couldn't endorse for solo after several hours dual and have since wondered if I did the right thing, having perhaps unfairly prevented someone achieving a life goal ... reading this accident report gives perspective; in fact I think I would have told the prospective buyer in this case to take his business elsewhere.

  7. A big red flag is the fact he had that much dual before the instructor (I assume it was just one) signed him off for solo. If you aren't soloing by the 30th hour, and that itself is long in the tooth on dual instruction, then you should just hang it up. and buy a PC for flight simming. As someone else stated, not everyone is cut out to fly. In fact most are not. The 172 is the most docile and forgiving of any aircraft used for training (or as a privately owned aircraft). If you can't command a 172 solo by 30 hours, you just weren't cut out to fly. That's just the truth.

  8. If the student was only allowed to do full-stop landings, he must not have used the checklist after landing and before the next takeoff otherwise he would have realized that his flaps were fully extended. I had an incident happen to me on a checkout flight of a 172 rental with my instructor. He had me do a "simulated" engine-out over the airport spiraling to land from 6,000' and when I rolled from base to final I put in all my flaps as I had the runway made but was slightly high. I touched down about one third of the runway (5,500' long), carb. heat off, full power, assumed I had retracted 10 degrees of flaps, rotated and once I was at 100' AGL realized something wasn't right and the plane wouldn't climb or accelerate. Much to my horror the flaps were still fully extended (40 degrees) and the tired Continental O-300 just couldn't do it. The flaps were in-op and my instructor took control and we were barley above stall speed, were out of runway and had rising terrain filling up the windshield. Luckily he mentioned to check the flap circuit breaker which had tripped, I got the flaps up and we started accelerating and climbing. It all happen quickly and if I had been by myself, you would be reading about me on the forum. It also sounds like this guy had a dead cylinder due to a stuck valve so his fate was sealed. RIP