Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Visual Flight Rules encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions: Cessna T210K Turbo Centurion, N272EF; fatal accident occurred January 02, 2017 in Payson, Gila County, Arizona

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona 
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas
Continental Motors Group; Mobile, Alabama 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Payson, Arizona
Accident Number: WPR17FA045
Date & Time: January 2, 2017, 09:37 Local
Registration: N272EF
Aircraft: Cessna T210K 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC 
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The non-instrument-rated private pilot departed his home airport with three family members on a cross-country visual flight rules (VFR) flight over mountainous terrain. The forecast weather conditions called for instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and mountain obscuration due to clouds, precipitation, and mist along the route of flight and at the accident site. The co-owner of the airplane, who held an instrument rating, had reviewed the pilot's flight plan and the forecast weather conditions two days before the accident and informed the pilot that he should drive to his destination as the weather would not allow for VFR flight. However, the pilot elected to proceed with the flight contrary to the co-owner's recommendation. The pilot entered the flight route into the Foreflight mobile application but did not receive any weather briefings from flight service or the mobile application before departure.

GPS data recovered from an electronic display device installed in the airplane showed that the airplane departed, entered a climb on a northerly heading, and maintained this direction for the remainder of the flight. After the airplane reached a peak altitude of about 8,000 ft above mean sea level (msl), it descended to 7,000 ft msl and then gradually descended to about 6,000 ft msl, where it remained until near the end of the flight. The airplane subsequently impacted the tops of trees on the rising face of a cliff about 6,600 ft msl. The orientation and length of the wreckage path were consistent with a controlled flight into terrain impact. Track data from the GPS showed that the airplane maintained a straight course after its departure all the way to the mountain rim, which had a published elevation between 6,700 feet msl and 8,000 feet msl. Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures.

A medical study revealed that each of the 4 fatally injured occupants sustained severe traumatic injuries that would have been rapidly fatal. Furthermore, the study showed there was no evidence to suggest that faster identification of the accident or earlier medical attention would have changed the outcome.

Although the autopilot switch was found in the "ON" position at the accident site, the autopilot was likely not engaged as the airplane's ground track and altitude varied, consistent with the pilot hand flying the airplane.

A weather study revealed that the airplane departed in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) and likely entered a combination of VMC and IMC after it climbed above 7,000 ft. Minutes later, the airplane encountered IMC and did not return to VMC for the remainder of the flight. The pilot's descent from 8,000 ft to 7,000 ft and then to 6,000 ft, occurred after the airplane entered IMC and indicates that he may have been attempting to return to VMC by descending, but was unsuccessful. Upon encountering IMC, the pilot could have turned around and returned to VMC, but he elected to continue and descend about 750 feet below the lowest peak terrain elevation in the area. The airplane's altitude increased rapidly by about 500 ft just seconds before the airplane impacted terrain suggesting that the pilot may have been alerted by the onboard terrain awareness warning system, which had been successfully tested by the co-owner, or observed the terrain and maneuvered to avoid the impact

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The non-instrument-rated pilot's improper decisions to begin and to continue a flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.    


Personnel issues Qualification/certification - Pilot
Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot
Environmental issues Below VFR minima - Decision related to condition
Environmental issues Mountainous/hilly terrain - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute VFR encounter with IMC (Defining event)
Enroute Loss of visual reference
Enroute Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)

On January 2, 2017, about 0937 mountain standard time, a Cessna T210K, N272EF, was destroyed when it collided with mountainous terrain near Payson, Arizona. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to N9402M Aviation, LLC, of Phoenix, Arizona. The personal flight was operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country flight that departed Scottsdale Airport (SDL), Scottsdale, Arizona, at 0912 and was destined for Telluride, Colorado.

According to the co-owner of the airplane, the pilot planned to fly from SDL, where the airplane was based, to Colorado with his family for their annual vacation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided a radar track for an airplane with a 1200 transponder code that corresponded with the airplane's departure time and route. The radar data indicated that the airplane departed SDL at 0912 and proceeded north. The final radar target was at 0937:39, at a Mode C altitude of 6,700 ft mean sea level (msl), and about 0.07 nautical miles (nm) east of the accident site. According to the FAA, the pilot did not receive VFR flight following services or contact any of the low altitude sectors along his route of flight.

An Electronics International MVP-50P electronic display device was recovered from the wreckage and forwarded to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Vehicle Recorders Laboratory for data recovery. The small battery used to power the unit's internal clock had become dislodged, and the unit reverted to an unset time setting. As a result, the flight and engine data time stamps in this report differ by about 20-minutes from the actual time derived from the FAA radar data.

Engine data retrieved from the MVP-50P indicated that the fuel flow, manifold pressure, and rpm increased at 09:33:05, consistent with departure performance. GPS and flight data retrieved from the unit showed the airplane's groundspeed rise from 0 knots and its altitude increase from 1,437 ft, which is about SDL's field elevation, consistent with a departure. The airplane then climbed to the northeast before turning left to a north heading for the remainder of the flight. The engine parameters did not indicate any anomalies during the flight. At 0943:59, the airplane reached a peak altitude of 8,029 ft and subsequently descended to about 7,850 ft. The airplane maintained this altitude within 30 ft for about 2 minutes and then climbed to 7,936 ft briefly before entering a descent and reaching about 6,651 ft at 0947:44. In the next minute, the airplane climbed to about 6,900 ft and then, at 0950:28, descended to and maintained about 6,200 ft, within 100 ft, for about 2 minutes 30 seconds. The last recorded data occurred while the airplane was in a 10-second climb at 0953:06, a GPS altitude of 6,767 ft, and about 0.22 nm from the accident site. In the airplane's final 12 seconds of flight, fuel flow decreased from about 20 to 17.4 gallons per hour, manifold pressure decreased from about 31 to 28 inches of mercury, and rpm remained unchanged.

Track data from the GPS showed that the airplane maintained a straight course after its departure all the way to the accident site located at the mountain rim, which had a published peak elevation that varied between 6,750 feet msl and 8,077 feet msl.

Family members became concerned on the afternoon of January 2 as they had not heard from the flight and were unable to reach the occupants on their cell phones. Around 2100, they notified local law enforcement who traced the flight's location using the pilot's and his wife's cell phones. An alert notice, or ALNOT, was issued at 2252 by Denver Center, and the wreckage was subsequently discovered the following morning at 0427 in a wooded area on the rising face of the Mogollon Rim, a cliff that extends across northern Arizona.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 44, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 None
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/10/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 05/11/2016
Flight Time:  295 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He did not hold an instrument rating. The pilot's most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on April 10, 2015, with no limitations. At the time of the exam, the pilot reported that he had accumulated 295 total flight hours of which 14 hours were in the previous 6 months.

The last recorded flight in the pilot's logbook was dated August 28 with the remark "Flight Review," but the logbook did not indicate the year the flight took place. An entry in the back of the logbook showed that the pilot's most recent flight review was conducted on May 11, 2016. His previous flight review was dated August 27, 2014.

According to FAA records, the pilot purchased the airplane in 2011. In February 2014, the pilot sold 50% of the ownership to an individual who responded to an advertisement that he posted on an internet website. This individual stated that he developed a friendship with the pilot through their co-ownership of the airplane. He stated that the accident pilot sometimes flew with him as a safety pilot when he practiced instrument approaches, but he did not believe that the accident pilot had aspired to become instrument rated. According to the co-owner, the accident pilot made less than five total cross-country flights each year, and his local flying normally took place ahead of his cross-country flights and was for the purpose of maintaining his currency to carry passengers.

The pilot's business partner flew with the pilot on three occasions and observed him watching a moving map on an iPad during one of the flights. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N272EF
Model/Series: T210K K
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1970
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 21059302
Landing Gear Type: Retractable - Tricycle
Seats: 5
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/21/2016, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3800 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 16 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 4307 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer:  Continental Motors Group
ELT: C91  installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: TSIO-520-CCR
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 310 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

According to FAA records, the airplane was manufactured in 1970 and registered to N9402M Aviation, LLC on July 22, 2011. The airplane was powered by a turbocharged, direct-drive, air-cooled, 310-horsepower Continental TSIO-520R engine. A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed that the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on October 21, 2016, at a tachometer time and total time of 4,307 hours. The engine logbook indicated that a 100-hour inspection was completed on October 21, 2016, at which time the engine had accrued 311 flight hours since major overhaul. At the time of the accident, the tachometer time was 4,323 hours.

A fuel receipt obtained from Signature Flight Support at SDL showed that the pilot purchased 42 gallons of 100 LL aviation grade gasoline at 0845 on the day of the accident. The co-owner reported that he was the last person to fly the airplane before the accident flight. He returned the airplane with about 44 gallons of fuel onboard about 4 days before the accident.

The owners installed a Garmin 750 GPS that was equipped with a Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS) and an engine analyzer in April 2016. The co-owner routinely updated the GPS databases and tested the TAWS system.

An estimate of the airplane's weight and balance was computed using the occupants' weights reported by the medical examiner. The baggage weight was determined by adding the weight of the baggage recovered by the medical examiner to the weight of the baggage that remained with the wreckage. The center row left seat had been removed from the airplane, and two weight and balance scenarios were computed. The first scenario (labeled "Graph no. 1" in the "Weight & Balance Computation" document in the NTSB public docket) assumed that the 218 pounds of baggage was split between the center and aft rows, and the second scenario (labeled "Graph no. 2" in the in the "Weight & Balance Computation" document in the NTSB public docket) split the same baggage weight between the center row and the baggage compartment. Computations showed the airplane's center of gravity within the moment envelope for both scenarios. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAN, 5156 ft msl
Observation Time: 0935 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 180°
Lowest Cloud Condition:  
Temperature/Dew Point: 2°C / 1°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 300 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots, Variable
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.11 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation; Unknown Obscuration
Departure Point: SCOTTSDALE, AZ (SDL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: TELLURIDE, CO (TEX)
Type of Clearance: VFR
Departure Time: 0912 MST
Type of Airspace: 

Weather Conditions at Time of Accident

At 0935, the weather conditions recorded at Payson Airport (PAN), Payson, Arizona, elevation 5,157 feet, located about 11 nm south of the accident site, included wind variable at 4 knots with gusts to 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, overcast ceiling at 300 ft above ground level (agl), temperature 2°C, dew point 1°C, and an altimeter setting of 30.11 inches of mercury.

Visible satellite imagery showed extensive cloud cover over the accident site with the clouds moving from west to east. Sounding data and infrared satellite imagery were used to determine the likely cloud cover that the airplane encountered along the route of flight. Figure 1, which depicts the cloud cover and the airplane's flight track, shows that the airplane departed in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) and entered a combination of IMC/VMC when it climbed above 7,000 ft. The airplane then entered IMC when it crossed over the Mazatzal Mountains, about 20 nm south of the accident site, and remained in IMC for the rest of the flight.

Figure 1 – Cloud Cover with height (Color Fill) and Accident Flight Track (Line)

A pilot weather report made near the time of the accident reported cloud tops at 11,000 ft about 40 nm west of the accident site. Another report made about 1 hour after the accident reported cloud bases between 5,900 ft and 6,400 ft and cloud tops about 8,000 ft about 50 nm northwest of the accident site. Pilot reports of light rime icing were made about 90 minutes after the accident took place and 45 nm northwest of the accident site.

Weather Forecasts

Airmen's meteorological information (AIRMET) advisories SIERRA and TANGO were issued at 0745 and were valid for the accident site at the time of the accident. AIRMET SIERRA forecasted IMC and mountain obscuration conditions due to clouds, precipitation, and mist, and AIRMET TANGO forecasted moderate turbulence below FL180.

An area forecast issued at 0445 and valid at the time of the accident called for a broken to overcast ceiling at 9,000 ft with cloud tops at 10,000 ft and a south wind gusting to 25 knots.

Sedona Airport, located 35 nm west-northwest of the accident site at an elevation of 4,830 ft, issued a terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) at 0433 that was valid at the time of the accident. The TAF called for wind from 180° at 11 knots with wind gusts to 20 knots, greater than 6 miles visibility, light rain showers, scattered clouds at 200 ft agl, a broken ceiling at 400 ft agl, and overcast skies at 1,200 ft agl.

The National Weather Service office in Flagstaff, Arizona, issued an area forecast discussion (AFD) at 0343 that discussed the likelihood of IFR conditions along south- and west-facing higher terrain. The AFD specifically mentioned that the Mogollon Rim was likely to have scattered light snow, rain, and rain shower conditions.

Weather Briefing

There was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing from Lockheed Martin Flight Service (LMFS), the Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS), or ForeFlight Mobile before departure. The pilot did not file a flight plan with ForeFlight Mobile but did enter route information at 0826 for a trip from SDL to Telluride Regional Airport. The pilot did not look at any weather imagery before or during the flight using ForeFlight, LMFS, or DUATS. It is unknown whether the pilot retrieved weather graphics or text weather information from other internet sources.

Two days before the accident, the pilot asked the co-owner to research the weather forecast and cross-check it against the pilot's flight plan to Telluride. After reviewing his flight plan and researching weather, the co-owner informed the pilot that Sunday and Monday, the day before and the day of the accident, were not options and suggested that the pilot drive to Telluride. The co-owner, who was an instrument-rated pilot, stated that he would not have personally flown this route because of the weather forecast.

For further meteorological information, see the weather study in the public docket for this investigation. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 34.429722, -111.277778 

The airplane came to rest on the south face of the Mogollon Rim about 11 nm north of PAN at an elevation of about 6,601 ft. The initial impact point (IIP) was identified by an aluminum fragment embedded about midway in a 50-foot-tall tree and several broken tree branches that came to rest a few feet beyond the IIP. An initial ground scar was marked by airplane fragments and loose dirt about 40 ft forward of the IIP. Portions of the wings and elevators were found along the debris path from the IIP to the main wreckage, about 80 ft from the IIP.

The main wreckage was comprised of the engine, fuselage, and tail section, which was displaced about 30° upward from the ground. The rudder, aileron, and elevator cables were traced from the cockpit to their respective control surfaces. The flap jackscrew measured about 4.4 inches, consistent with a flaps retracted position. The elevator trim actuator screw was separated from the actuator body.

The airplane was equipped with a 2-point restraint system for each occupant and no shoulder harnesses. The passengers' lap belts were each found in the clasped position. Only a portion of the pilot's lap belt was recovered and two of the passengers' belts had separated at their airframe attachment points. The third passengers' lap belt had been cut by recovery personnel.

Both wing fuel tanks were breached and exhibited an odor that resembled 100 low lead aviation grade gasoline. The fuel strainer bowl was removed, and it contained several ounces of uncontaminated liquid of a color and odor that resembled aviation grade gasoline. The fuel selector valve, which was positioned on the left fuel tank detent, was subsequently rotated to each of the three fuel tank ports, and no obstructions were observed.

The vacuum pump functioned normally when manipulated by hand; both vanes and the carbon rotor were intact and unremarkable. The autopilot switch was found in the "ON" position.

The engine displayed a dent and several cracks on the rear left side of the crankcase consistent with impact damage. All six cylinders remained attached to their cylinder bays. The throttle and metering assembly was partially separated from its mount. Multiple ignition leads from the ignition harness were severed from their respective spark plugs. The exhaust system remained attached to the engine and displayed crush damage. The cabin heat exhaust heat exchanger did not display any leaks.

Rotational continuity was established throughout the engine and valve train when the engine crankshaft was manually rotated using a hand tool. Thumb compression and suction were obtained for all six cylinders. The cylinder combustion chambers and barrels were examined with a lighted borescope, and the cylinder bores, valve heads, and piston faces displayed normal operation and combustion signatures. The cylinder overhead components, comprised of the valves, springs, push rods, and rocker arms, exhibited normal operation and lubrication signatures.

An examination of the top and bottom spark plugs revealed varying degrees of impact damage, but signatures consistent with normal wear. The oil filter exhibited impact damage; however, the filter pleats were not contaminated with metallic debris. The oil sump pickup screen did not display any blockage, and the oil pump did not display any anomalies.

Disassembly of the fuel manifold revealed a fluid consistent with aviation grade gasoline inside the valve body. While the fuel screen did not display any obstructions, the unfiltered side of the valve displayed some contaminates. The fuel nozzles were not obstructed except for nozzle Nos. 3 and 5, which were impacted with mud and dirt. Fuel nozzle No. 2 was not recovered.

The throttle body metering unit was removed from its engine accessory housing, and the fuel metering portion of the unit was disassembled. The internal components appeared normal, and the inlet fuel screen was free of debris with the exception of a trace amount of fibrous material.

The left magneto had separated from its mounting flange, and the magneto housing was cracked open exposing its internal components. A small amount of movement was achieved through the magneto drive, and the magneto did not produce a spark. The right magneto remained attached to the accessory case and was capable of normal rotation through the magneto drive. The impulse coupling operated normally and produced spark on all six posts in the correct order.

The three-blade, variable-pitch propeller was attached to the propeller flange. Two propeller blades were attached to the propeller hub, and the third blade was found in the debris path. One blade exhibited "S" bending at the blade tip and aft bending about mid-span. Another propeller blade displayed aft bending deformation, and the remaining propeller blade exhibited forward bending, leading edge polishing, and a gouge towards the blade root. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, Tucson, Arizona, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The autopsy report indicated that the pilot's cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological tests on specimens recovered from the pilot. A carboxyhemoglobin saturation test revealed no evidence of carbon monoxide in the pilot's cavity blood. The pilot's toxicology results were negative for ethanol and positive for tadalafil in his cavity blood.

Tadalafil, marketed under the trade name Cialis, is used to treat erectile dysfunction and symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy. Another brand of Tadalafil, marketed under the brand name Adcirca, is used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Additional carboxyhemoglobin tests for two of the three passengers did not indicate a presence of carbon monoxide in the heart blood of either occupant. A medical study showed that each of the four occupants suffered severe traumatic injuries. 

Tests And Research

Emergency Locator Transmitter

The airplane was equipped with a Pointer, model 3000, FAA technical standing order type C91 emergency locator transmitter (ELT), which broadcasts radio signals on the emergency radio channel 121.5 MHz. Aircraft receivers monitoring the emergency channel that intercept an ELT signal can announce the signal along with their position to Air Traffic Control. According to a representative of the FAA, the Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) received four ELT reports from aircraft that intercepted ELT signals near PAN between 0938 and 0942 on the day of the accident. The FAA representative further reported that the four ELT reports were immediately forwarded to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC). The reporting of ELT signals is governed by FAA Job Order Chapter 5-2-8, which requires ARTCC to send the signal reports directly to AFRCC.

AFRCC receives Cospas-Sarsat distress alerts sent by the United States Mission Control Center and is responsible for coordinating the rescue response to the distress. According to the United States Government Federal Register, the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system only processes signals from 406 MHz ELTs as they ceased processing signals from 121.5 MHz ELTs beginning February 2009. This decision was the result of problems with the frequency band, which inundated search and rescue authorities with inaccurate and false alerts, which impacted the effectiveness of lifesaving services.


Skylar and Victoria Falbe



  1. natural selection sad thing is he took 3 souls with him
    you cant fix stupid

    1. Can you "fix" your English grammar?

    2. don't be rude. He made a mistake and they paid the ultimate price.

    3. what he did was way beyond any "mistake" it was intentional on several levels

  2. I've wondered why in commo with ATC used just the "N," without initially my certificate number.

  3. What a terrible thing to have as your legacy: "I killed myself and my beautiful family because I wasn't smart enough to understand that I shouldn't be flying in instrument conditions without an instrument rating." Aviation treats harshly those who ignore lessons purchased with the lives of thousands before them.

    1. Amazing how often this happens. Superman pilots with fat wallets and big egos.

    2. for sure its almost as if he was suicidal no weather brief advised to drive by his co owner sad for all involved the ego won

  4. This just makes me angry. A beautiful family destroyed, a perfectly good airplane destroyed, countless heartbreaking moments for relatives, and a huge black eye for GA. All because a pilot made a series of bad decisions that could have been avoided very easily at multiple points all the way from planning the flight days before to just moments before the airplane plowed into the hillside. How many times is this going to be repeated? As pilots, we all have to ask ourselves what our personal abort criteria are and to what degree we are willing to adhere to those values no matter how strong the temptation to ignore those values. I personally ratchet up those minimums when I'm carrying (or planning to carry) passengers; it's one thing for me to auger in, it's another thing to endanger someone else by a rash or even a marginal decision. One last thing; I'm not convinced this pilot was qualified to land and take off at Telluride, an airport notorious for its ability to swallow up those who ignore its dangers.

  5. Another VFR into IMC happened in Michigan on 01/02. Absolute Tragedies. I know nobody wants more regulations but, cold it be possible to have all flights file a flight plan and if that flight plan takes you through IMC conditions and your not rated you would be blocked or fined if you continued?

  6. When your flying buddy tells you its a no-go, now matter how much you disagree, you abort the mission, no question. That is the flying buddy golden rule. There is always another day.

    1. Apparently this bozo had a big ego. We read about these big egos and tragedies all the time on KR. Sadly, they take innocents with them who are clueless of the danger of ignoring flight rules.

  7. Just asking, seeing that chart above, was VFR over the top an option for that plane?

    1. Probably, but arriving at Telluride 'on top' and the field is IMC - now what ?

  8. This is hard to understand. 8,000' is a poor altitude to fly across Arizona mnts. At least 1000' too low. The autopilot would get you out of Arizona, hopefully back into VFR conditions, unless you ran into icing which would explain the continuous loss of altitude. a truly avoidable accident. R.I.P.

  9. I second the above head-scratching comments. My first thoughts were autopilot on and turning back, or VFR on top as well and keeping above the mountains which anyone who trained in AZ should know by heart, but icing may have played a role: "The AFD specifically mentioned that the Mogollon Rim was likely to have scattered light snow, rain, and rain shower conditions."

    Besides that I will never understand IMC accidents when the aircraft has a functioning autopilot, even if just to level the wings, and (climb)performance is not limited by altitude and/or icing, of course.

    If a pilot in the internet age has no interest in understanding weather and some physics/aerodynamics and all the equipment and systems of the aircraft, even if not (yet) rated for some, and thus has no knack for flying, that person should not be flying but get a two-dimensional toy like a muscle car or a showboat instead.

    The report states the AP switch was on but the track appears to be hand-flying. Not sure what to make of that - last second attempt to turn on AP?

  10. How many times does this have to happen?
    Soon enough every flight will have to file a flight plan as a requirement. No flight plan? No clearance! Your ego is not your amigo!

  11. More GA hurting lawsuits coming here you can be assured of (if not already). An egotistical wealthy lawyer and real estate developer in a very high performance aircraft with no instrument rating and only 295 hours who ignores his more experienced and rated plane owner partner. What could possibly go wrong? These stories just burn myass and I get very angry. Was the idiot not disciplined as a kid and thought he could write checks around and/or just simply ignore rules? Apparently his ex-wife had real premonition fears in a 2008 interview just a year after the crash (this scumbag also apparently left her for a younger 31 year old seen in the pics above - yeah he earned every bloody stripe being judged by the GA community after death and cannot speak for himself):

    "Every single time he flew, I was a nervous wreck," said Cynthia. "It was my worst fear that it would happen to my children."

    After their divorce in 2007, Cynthia tried to prevent Eric from flying with her children.

    "I never felt comfortable with it," said Cynthia.

    A court, however, would never agree to it.

    "So there was nothing that I could do," said Cynthia.

  12. Poor wife and kids, they put their trust in dear old dad and now they are all DEAD. Nothing wrong with this Cessna. How can you call this a accident? This was more like a deliberate, intentionally and premeditated act that ended up killing his family and himself. Call it what it was, murder first degree. The pilot knew he was breaking the FAA reg's, the rule of law but did it anyway. No licensed pilot does not know what VFR, IMC are. You pass a written test for God's sakes so he knew full well the danger he was putting his family in, but he fired that bad boy up and took off anyway. In my view no accident here, a first degree murder should be how this is listed. I'm sorry for all other love ones and other family members. I'm not saying this to be mean or ugly. Maybe today more than ever before in history we need to talk in clear words. Words mean something. It's sad that some say words like, go take action, go kick ass, then act surprised when those that listen went out, took action, kicked ass. Maybe we all, including myself just need to STF up.

    1. With all respect I disagree. There are decades of NTSB fatal crash reports of pilots flying beyond their skill and rating (and killing their families). Sure, a few crashes into terrain or buildings were ruled as intentional (read the report here about the Citation pilot who crashed into his home where his soon-to-be ex-wife was in at the time). But those events are the rare exception and not the rule of being an idiot. This was an idiot flying into conditions beyond his skill. He was apparently happily married to his second wife and his ex had moved on with an apparent long-ago amicable divorce settlement, so there was no clear motive here to off himself and take his kids with him. Further proof of that is that he apparently didn't have any financial difficulty. Any of those situations can be a cause of an intentional event, and there doesn't seem to be any arrows pointing to any of the usual suspect signs of a dad taking his kids with him to die.

  13. We have had two of these type of incidents in last 3 years. I sometimes watch pilots departing in very marginal conditions with substandard equipment, but thinking their instrument rating allows this. Both times with passengers, with both pilot and non pilot. One resulting in severe icing, the other trying to get on top when tops turned out to be 23,000 ft. Both resulted in 5 fatalities.

  14. A common factor in accidents is traveling to or returning from a scheduled activity. In this case it was the planned annual ski vacation. Good judgement takes a back seat when keeping to schedule is king.

  15. I wonder if the pilot had ever even landed at Telluride prior to this accident. I am not a pilot, but I realize that the airstrip at Telluride is very unforgiving due to the terrain and density altitude. Is a 300 hour pilot proficient enough to make a trip like this even with pristine VFR conditions?

    1. He apparently flew to Telluride once every year. The record of conversations document in the docket includes the co-owner stating about the accident pilot: "his two main trips each year were to Telluride and Mexico".

  16. My guess is that this was not the first time in life that this fella bent the rules. Probably with successful outcome on many occasions, both in aviation and in other areas. This is a seductive path to walk, and sadly, too often can lead to an outcome like this. Tragic, for sure.

  17. The mother of those children got the worst of this deal - she's got to live the rest of her life wondering if there's anything she didn't think of at the time and/or could have done to prevent the father flying with the children as passengers. She had to have known they were going to Telluride but likely had no idea about weather, IMC conditions versus VFR conditions or her ex-husband's qualifications as a pilot with respect to same. It hurts just to think about it.