NTSB Preliminary Report Describes Acceleration In Ground Effect, Rapid Climb, Descent
The NTSB's preliminary report on an accident in St. George, UT, which resulted in the fatal injury of four people aboard a Cessna 172 describes footage from a security video camera which shows the airplane accelerating in ground effect, rapidly climbing, and then rapidly descending before impacting terrain. The accident occurred just before 0130 local time, and the condition of the pilot won't be known until the board's factual report is released.
NTSB Identification: WPR12FA230
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 26, 2012 in St. George, UT
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N953SP
Injuries: 4 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
On May 26, 2012, about 0120 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 172S, N953SP, collided with terrain shortly after departing from St. George Municipal Airport, St. George, Utah. Diamond Flying LLC was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The commercial pilot and three passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight was departing from St. George with a planned destination of Mesquite, Nevada. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.
A review of the recorded security camera footage at the airport revealed that the airplane could be seen in the nighttime conditions by the blinking left-wing strobe light and the navigation light mounted on the tail. The airplane appeared to depart from runway 19 and maneuver at a low altitude for the length of the runway while increasing its airspeed. Near the end of the runway, the airplane began a rapid ascent and continued out of the view of the camera. After about 7 seconds, the airplane reappears further down the frame in a rapid descent.
The accident site was located in the hard dirt area (the southerly primary surface) adjacent to the departure end of runway 19. Situated on the level terrain, the airplane came to rest in an inverted attitude and was oriented on a 315-degree magnetic bearing. The main wreckage, which consisted of a majority of the airframe and engine, was located about 525 feet from the edge of the runway's center point.
The first identified point of impact was a ground scar impression about 40 feet from the main wreckage that dimensionally and geometrically resembled the wings with a crater-like impression in between. The span of the ground disturbance was about 36.5 feet, with red lens fragments located near the east side and green fragments on the westerly side; the airplane's wingspan was 36.1 feet. Imbedded in the center crater was a portion of a propeller blade and the nose wheel. In the debris field from the ground scar to the main wreckage was the oil sump, the propeller, and engine accessories.
A routine aviation weather report (METAR) generated by an Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) at the airport, indicated that about 5 minutes prior to the accident the conditions were as follows: wind was from 260 degrees at 9 knots; temperature 66 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 28 degrees Fahrenheit; and altimeter 29.60 inHg.