Saturday, January 08, 2022

Fuel Related: Cessna 150M, N45069; accident occurred January 03, 2020 near Twentynine Palms Airport (KTNP), San Bernardino County, California

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; Riverside, California

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Twentynine Palms, California
Accident Number: WPR20CA060
Date and Time: January 3, 2020, 20:00 Local
Registration: N45069
Aircraft: Cessna 150
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel related
Injuries: 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, upon arrival at the airport after dark, he attempted to activate the pilot-controlled lights by keying the mike seven times. Shortly later, he repeated the process twice, but the runway lights did not turn on. He circled the area to try to locate the airport but was unsuccessful. The airplane was now low on fuel, so the pilot began looking for a place to make a precautionary landing. He landed the airplane on a dirt road, and during the landing rollout, the nose landing gear separated, and the left wing was substantially damaged. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

The Federal Aviation Administration Airport Facility Directory noted that medium-intensity runway lights were available at the airport. To activate the pilot-controlled lighting, the pilot must key the mike five times in 5 seconds. The pilot reported that he did not check what the proper procedures were for operating the pilot-controlled lighting for the runway. Airport personnel checked the pilot-controlled lighting system the day after the accident and reported that there were no malfunctions with the system.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's poor preflight planning, during which he failed to verify the proper procedure to activate the runway lights; his inability to locate the airport without lighting; and the airplane's subsequent low-fuel state as he circled looking for the airport, which necessitated a precautionary off-airport landing, during which the nose landing gear separated.


Personnel issues Flight planning/navigation - Pilot
Environmental issues Dark - Effect on personnel
Aircraft Fuel - Fluid level
Personnel issues Use of policy/procedure - Pilot

Factual Information

History of Flight

Landing Fuel related (Defining event)
Landing Off-field or emergency landing
Landing-landing roll Part(s) separation from AC

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private 
Age: 24, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None 
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None 
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: April 1, 2019
Occupational Pilot: No 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: January 12, 2018
Flight Time: 260 hours (Total, all aircraft), 28.8 hours (Total, this make and model)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N45069
Model/Series: 150 M
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1975 
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility 
Serial Number: 15076722
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Date/Type of Last Inspection: November 18, 2019 Annual 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 1601 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6295.3 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: Installed 
Engine Model/Series: O-220-A
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 100 Horsepower
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KNXP, 2051 ft msl 
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 18:56 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 312°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility: 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:  /
Wind Direction: 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:  /
Altimeter Setting: 30.37 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 16°C / 0°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Maricopa, AZ (A39)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Twentynine Palms, CA (TNP)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 19:00 Local 
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: Twentynine Palms TNP 
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 1888 ft msl 
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: 
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Straight-in

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 None 
Latitude, Longitude: 34.136112,-115.944442


  1. The private pilot with a class 1 medical must have big plans.

    1. LOL well at 260 hours this will not reflect well on his record when he advances, if that is his intention. Such a basic foolish mistake that any accomplished 50 hour wet behind the ears signed off PPL knows well: KNOW the caveats of your destination airport INCLUDING turning on night lighting if it's uncontrolled.

      But back to his 260 hours and doing something so stupid, considering the shortage of pilots out there that is forecast, he may be up front on one of our commercial flights one day.

  2. Yup, Great Resume embellishment? Have you.... Well, you see, it wasn't my fault.

    1. There's no Form 6120 in the docket to identify the pilot, so maybe it will slip his memory down the road.

    2. Nameless in the news media too:

    3. The pilot is standing to the far left and his flight bag is laying on the ground under wing.

  3. Wait a second... is the NTSB trying to say the pilot should've clicked 5 times to activate the system? And he made a mistake because he clicked it 7 times?

    Per section 2.1.8 in the link below (straight from the horse's a.., err, mouth), all pilot-controlled lighting systems will activate the highest available intensity when clicked 7 times. No mention whatsoever that you only get medium intensity systems to activate with 5 clicks.

    Approved lighting systems may be activated by keying the mike (within 5 seconds) as indicated in TBL 2-1-3.

    TBL 2-1-3
    Radio Control System

    Key Mike


    7 times within 5 seconds

    Highest intensity available

    5 times within 5 seconds

    Medium or lower intensity (Lower REIL or REIL-off)

    3 times within 5 seconds

    Lowest intensity available (Lower REIL or REIL-off)

    Now, there is a nice little snippet in that section as well, mentioning the following: Due to the close proximity of airports using the same frequency, radio controlled lighting receivers may be set at a low sensitivity requiring the aircraft to be relatively close to activate the system. Consequently, even when lights are on, always key mike as directed when overflying an airport of intended landing or just prior to entering the final segment of an approach. This will assure the aircraft is close enough to activate the system

    What can (and will happen) is pilots trying to activate the lights too far away, combined with interference from other aircraft on the frequency, resulting in the lights not turning on. And then you have the airport personnel trying it on the ground and telling them "see, they work - you're being dumb".

    So yes, pilot definitely didn't have his 45 minutes of fuel reserve for night flying, that's totally on him. That might dent his (potential) career aspirations. But the fact that he keyed the lights 7 times, and some NTSB guy that doesn't seem to have a clue tells him he did it wrong, I hope he follows up with the NSTB on that. Unless I'm missing something, this looks extremely unprofessional.

    FAA link with how lights are supposed to work: