Saturday, November 27, 2021

Collision with Terrain (non-CFIT): Cessna 172G Skyhawk, N5735R; accident occurred August 09, 2021 near Reno/Tahoe International Airport (KRNO), Washoe County, Nevada

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; Reno, Nevada

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Reno, Nevada
Accident Number: WPR21LA308
Date and Time: August 9, 2021, 10:30 Local 
Registration: N5735R
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Injuries: 3 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, while climbing toward mountainous terrain and approaching a ridgeline, the airplane encountered a downdraft. The airplane was unable to outclimb the terrain, and too low to turn around, so the pilot elected to perform a forced landing to desert terrain. The airplane struck the ground, nosed over, and came to rest inverted substantially damaging the wings and fuselage. The pilot reported that there were no pre-accident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the airplane that would have precluded normal
operation. The pilot stated that he could have avoided the accident if he approached the terrain at a higher altitude.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain prior to encountering a downdraft, which resulted in a forced landing and collision with terrain. 


Aircraft Altitude - Not attained/maintained
Personnel issues Decision making/judgment - Pilot
Environmental issues Downdraft - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute Other weather encounter
Enroute-climb to cruise Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT) (Defining event)
Emergency descent Off-field or emergency landing
Landing Nose over/nose down

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline transport; Commercial; Flight instructor
Age: 78, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter 
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter 
Second Pilot Present:
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane multi-engine; Airplane single-engine; Instrument airplane; Instrument helicopter
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 3 With waivers/limitations 
Last FAA Medical Exam: December 14, 2020
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: August 15, 2020
Flight Time: (Estimated) 1200 hours (Total, all aircraft), 400 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N5735R
Model/Series: 172G 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1965
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility 
Serial Number: 17253404
Landing Gear Type: Tandem
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: July 7, 2021 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2300 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 6 Hrs
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: as of last inspection 
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: C91 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 150 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC) 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KRNO,4410 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 6 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 12:00 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 303°
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Visibility: 3 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3200 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.08 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 1°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: Moderate - None - Smoke
Departure Point: Reno, NV (KRNO)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Yerington, NV (O43)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 10:00 Local
Type of Airspace: Class E

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 None 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 39.429325,-119.66219


  1. Always cross Ridgelines at a shallow angle and with excess altitude. Forced landing was probably a very smart but difficult decision. Landing under control likely saved lives.