Saturday, March 13, 2021

Loss of Control in Flight: Cessna 172N Skyhawk II, N738DB; accident occurred March 17, 2020 at Kahului Airport (PHOG), Hawaii


Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Honolulu, Hawaii

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Fly Maui LLC

 Location: Kahului, HI
Accident Number: ANC20CA034
Date & Time: 03/17/2020, 0914 HST
Registration: N738DB
Aircraft: Cessna 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 


The solo student pilot reported that, while in the airport traffic pattern, the air traffic tower controller instructed her to follow a heavy jet airplane. She saw the heavy jet airplane and confirmed it with the tower controller who then cleared the pilot to land behind the heavy jet and provided a caution for wake turbulence. As she maintained a final approach to land "past the numbers" and prepared for the landing flare, the wings suddenly rolled right, and the nose dropped. She attempted to correct, but the airplane landed hard, skidded off the runway, and nosed over. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right wing, lift struts, and empennage.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The student pilot's failure to avoid wake turbulence while landing behind a heavy jet airplane, which resulted in a loss of roll control and subsequent hard landing.


Personnel issues Aircraft control - Student/instructed pilot
Personnel issues Lack of action - Student/instructed pilot
Environmental issues Wake turbulence - Effect on operation
Aircraft Lateral/bank control - Not attained/maintained

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing Aircraft wake turb encounter
Landing Loss of control in flight (Defining event)
Landing Attempted remediation/recovery
Landing Hard landing
Landing Runway excursion
Landing Nose over/nose down

Pilot Information

Certificate: Student
Age: 50, Female
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
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: 08/12/2019
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 78 hours (Total, all aircraft), 73 hours (Total, this make and model), 4 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 33 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 10 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N738DB
Model/Series: 172 N
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17269886
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/22/2020, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6828.5 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C91 installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-320-H2AD
Registered Owner: Fly Maui LLC
Rated Power: 160 hp
Operator: Fly Maui LLC
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PHOG, 50 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 1854 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 32°
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: 29.96 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 20°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Hana, HI (HNM)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Hana, HI (HNM)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0845 HST
Type of Airspace: Class C 

Airport Information

Airport: KAHULUI (OGG)
Runway Surface Type: Asphalt
Airport Elevation: 53 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 2
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 6998 ft / 150 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Full Stop; Traffic Pattern 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 20.889722, -156.435833 (est)


  1. Why does a specific demographic of pilot which makes up such a small percentage of the pilot population lose control and crash a perfectly fine plane at such a high percentage?

    1. I don't know if there's really a demographic factor in play here. If she didn't know to stay high on final and to land at least a third of the way down the runway to avoid the wake turbulence, is it because she wasn't paying attention or because her instructor didn't tell her?

      She had a 7,000 foot runway to work with. Did she know she could have stayed high on final and landed 5,000 feet past the numbers in a 172 just fine? There's a lot of rote instruction going on out there, "aim for just past the numbers" and a lack, in my opinion, of building basic stick and rudder skills.

      Everyone harps on "ADM! ADM! ADM!". But if you don't know what you can make your aircraft do, you don't really know all the options you have available.