Sunday, May 02, 2021

Aerodynamic Stall / Spin: Cessna 172N Skyhawk, N734QQ; accident occurred May 02, 2018 in Port Angeles, Washington

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Seattle, Washington 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Port Angeles, Washington
Accident Number: GAA18CA248
Date & Time: May 2, 2018, 08:00 Local 
Registration: N734QQ
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Aerodynamic stall/spin 
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Positioning


The pilot reported that, during a cross-country flight over mountainous terrain, he had a tailwind and allowed the airplane to get too close to terrain. He initiated a right turn to avoid rising terrain, but the terrain was "getting close very quickly." The pilot increased the bank angle, and the nose dropped. The pilot then applied forward pressure on the yoke, and full throttle had already been applied. The airplane stalled and then impacted terrain. Both wings and the fuselage sustained substantial damage.

In the recommendation section of the National Transportation Safety Board Pilot Aviation Accident Report, the pilot reported that his decision to delay the turn away from rising terrain was impulsive and the main reason for this accident.

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's exceedance of the airplane's critical angle of attack during a turn away from terrain, which resulted in an accelerated stall. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's decision to delay the turn to avoid terrain. 


Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Aircraft Angle of attack - Capability exceeded
Environmental issues Mountainous/hilly terrain - Effect on operation
Aircraft Lateral/bank control - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot
Personnel issues Delayed action - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Maneuvering-low-alt flying Aerodynamic stall/spin (Defining event)
Maneuvering-low-alt flying Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial; Flight instructor
Age: 23, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane single-engine
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: April 5, 2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: April 14, 2018
Flight Time: (Estimated) 1390 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1280 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 235 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 87 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 6 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna 
Registration: N734QQ
Model/Series: 172 N 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1977 
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17269034
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 2
Date/Type of Last Inspection: April 24, 2018 Continuous airworthiness
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 22574 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: LYCOMING
ELT: C126 installed, activated, aided in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-320-D2G
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 160 Horsepower
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand air taxi (135)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC) 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KPWT,444 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 22 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 14:56 Local
Direction from Accident Site: 108°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.13 inches Hg 
Temperature/Dew Point: 10°C / 7°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: PORT ANGELES, WA (CLM)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Shelton, WA (SHN)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 07:45 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 47.598056,-123.276107(est)


  1. The box strikes again. He is lucky to have walked away from this. It is amazing how many proficient pilots continue to get themselves in these situations, especially having the knowledge of the dangers of flying into mountainous terrain in a normally aspirated powered aircraft. Wash, rinse, spin, repeat. Time after time, year after year, decade after decade. And this guy is only 23.

  2. Yes, he is quite fortunate to have walked away from this. The odd thing is that he admitted that he new the issues surrounding mountain flying and that he had flown the route many times, but he just waited too long before taking any action. My question is, why did he wait so long, what was it that delayed the action he knew he had to take? Before he realized it, he was beyond the point of recoverability, and like so many others he stalled the plane trying to turn around. On a CAVU day, this should never happen, yet it did.

  3. "My question is, why did he wait so long, what was it that delayed the action he knew he had to take?"

    ^^That answer is in this statement of his: "During the climb, I remember flying over Heart of the Hills, which is a trail head I frequent so I knew what kind of terrain I was flying over. I wasn't looking at my instruments much but I do remember noticing a tailwind during the climb on course."

    He clearly was much more interested in the scenery outside than what was going on inside the cockpit. That is the absolute LAST way to fly into a mountainous area that is full of snow that obscures terrain depth perception. Complete optical illusion.

    It's even bit professional pilots on sight seeing trips, the worst being a DC-10 slamming into a steep snowing slope around an Antarctic volcano on a tourist sightseeing trip in 1979:

  4. Apart from writing down an honest report, reading the story I see someone who suffers from the "downwind turn syndrome" Airspeed does NOT increase when turning into the wind, neither suffers flying with tailwind. RATE of climb is NOT influenced by tail- or headwind (excluding gusts or windshear) but ANGLE of climb, relative to the surface, does indeed. To me it is a combination of flying in a white walled "kettle", loosing the natural horizon plus a partly "whiteout" situation. Here in Europe some 2 Years ago a fully laden antic Junkers Ju52 met the same situation, only that stall killed all of the occupants, 20. Even the slope is remarkably identical.


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