Saturday, December 05, 2020

Cessna 172N Skyhawk, N737NB: Accident occurred December 04, 2020 at Palm Springs International Airport (KPSP), Riverside County, California

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Riverside, California

Location: Palm Springs, CA
Accident Number: WPR21LA080
Date & Time: December 04, 2020, 14:11 Local
Registration: N737NB
Aircraft: Cessna 172
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Instructional
On December 4, 2020, about 1411 Pacific standard time, a Cessna C172N, N737NB, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Palm Springs, California. The pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.
The Palm Springs International Airport tower controller reported that the airplane completed two previous full stop, taxi back landings. On the next landing, the pilot was cleared for the option to runway 31R. Subsequently, the tower personnel observed the airplane land hard, bounce, and then climb out. Shortly thereafter, the airplane banked sharply to the left and then spiraled downward
towards the ground. A review of airport surveillance video confirmed what the tower personnel observed.
Another witness located at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 150 yards east of the final impact area, reported the engine did not sound like it was producing full power during the go around. All major sections of the airplane necessary for flight were accounted for at the accident site. There was no evidence of post impact fire.
The airplane was recovered to a secure facility at the airport.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
Aircraft Make: Cessna 
Registration: N737NB
Model/Series: 172 N 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Pilot school (141)
Operator Designator Code:
Meteorological Information and Flight Plan
Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KPSP,459 ft msl 
Observation Time: 13:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 22°C /-16°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 3 knots / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.2 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: 
Wreckage and Impact Information
Crew Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious 
Latitude, Longitude: 33.829722,-116.50666 (est)

PALM SPRINGS, California –  A female pilot suffered major injuries Friday after the small aircraft she was flying crashed on the runway while taking off at the Palm Springs International Airport.

Airport officials said the crash occurred as the pilot appeared to be engaged in takeoff and landing practice flights. 

"There was nothing unusual about what the pilot was doing," said Ulises Aguirre, the airport's executive director. The pilot had, at least once, successfully landed at the airport, taken off and landed again, he said.

Aguirre said he had not spoken with anyone who witnessed the crash. He added that he didn't know where the pilot had originated, where she was going or what caused the crash.

One of the airport's two runways remained closed for much of Friday evening, as crews worked to clean up the crash site.

The incident caused some arriving commercial flights to be diverted to other airports, as well as the cancellation of others, according to Aguirre, who estimated about 10 flights were affected.

The Cessna 172N Skyhawk crashed at 2:10 p.m., according to Ian Gregor, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot, whose name has not been released, was the only person on board the plane, according to Capt. Nathan Gunkel, with the Palm Springs Fire Department. 

He added that she suffered injuries to her legs and, according to a fire department tweet, was "extricated and transported to a local hospital." 

The fire department also posted a video of the scene that showed firefighters working around a small plane with its nose pointed toward the runway.

The fire crews at the crash site began pulling back around 4:20 p.m., although some remained on the airfield.

The Riverside County Department of Environmental Health Hazardous Material Branch was expected to clean up the fuel on the runway, Gunkel said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident and the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the crash, Gregor said. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft crashes, he said.


  1. Was doing okay the first couple of T&G's:

  2. Looks like she had a hard landing then bounced tried to do a go around and stalled at a low altitude and luckily for her otherwise that would have been fatal if she got any higher.

  3. Looks like either some mechanical issue or purpoising. If she didn't have a shoulder harness that would have been a pretty bad hit on the head. Hopefully she recovers quickly but the plane is a total writeoff.

  4. "Don’t get complacent. Some student pilots discover the hard way that the built-in haste of the “go” portion of a touch and go makes it an error-prone phase. Adding takeoff power too quickly, or without adequate directional control, could yaw your trainer into a runway excursion, or pitch it up beyond the departure-stall angle-of-attack—especially if lots of nose-up trim was applied on approach.

    Forgetting to shut off carburetor heat can expose a carbureted engine to unfiltered air.

    Retracting flaps improperly, or forgetting that step entirely in the haste to go, is a setup for loss of control."

    1. Was she complacent? Added power to quickly? You think it was carb heat? Improperly retracted flaps? Many really good points to think about.

    2. No carb ice potential for 73F ambient, 8F dewpoint and 8% RH, so you can rule out her running carb heat. (FAA chart in linked document below)$FILE/CE-09-35.pdf

    3. Yes, looks like not carb heat. Maybe something else.

    4. PPL student (35hrs) here. I doubt this accident was caused by FOD ingestion or carb ice, but it's highly likely that the carb heat was applied. Maybe it's different in sunny dry California, but I've been trained to *always* apply carburetor heat any time the throttle is partially closed and ESPECIALLY on final approach. We are trained that carburetor ice can occur at nearly temperature, and as such heat should be applied as a precautionary measure. Page 4-19 of the aircrafts POH (Pilots operator Handbook) states in the landing section that 'Carburetor heat should be applied before any significant reduction or closing of throttle.' We do a C-GUMPS pre landing checklist - C being for carb heat.

      After stabilizing on the centerline of the runway, I typically flip the flaps up, push the carb heat in, quickly glance at the trim indicator (to know what to expect), then give it the gas. Keeping stable is definitely tricky on landing and acceleration on touch and go's!

  5. Aircraft N737NB is used by Palm Springs Pilot Association, a Part 61 flight school that also sponsors the nonprofit Coachella Valley Youth Aviation Education Program.

    1. Her husband runs the Youth Education Program.

    2. Has it been stated that the aircraft owner was piloting the flight school aircraft? Another 172 (N2559L) used by the school is also licensed to her.

      Expected the accident pilot to be a student of the school.

    3. It was a solo flight for the student. The owner is out of state and instructor would have been waiting at TRM.

  6. KPSP (from scrolling 3-day history:

    Day/ PST /T/DP/Rh/Wind/Vis/Sky/Altimeter
    04 1:53pm 73 8 8 S 3 10.00 CLR 30.16
    04 2:29pm 74 8 8 SE5 10.00 CLR 30.15

    Light wind, nice conditions...

  7. The plane I learned in. rip baby

  8. Don't think it was a simple porpoise, though it might have started that way, because the wingtips are a complete mess. Looks more like a loss of control close to the runway with a wing strike and a resulting cartwheel.

    1. Way more than a porpoise. Look close at the photo of the plane up on the truck. It's not just nose and both wingtips - the port wing leading edge has a big flat spot from strut to the bend-upwards end. That was a thorough multiple contact event.

  9. Swift and comforted recovery to her.