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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 221600
Last updated: 9 October 2019
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Type:Silhouette image of generic C172 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Cessna 172M Skyhawk
Owner/operator:Flying Academy Los Angeles
Registration: N20556
C/n / msn: 17261391
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Near Morongo Valley, San Bernardino County, CA -   United States of America
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:El Monte Airport, CA (EMT/KEMT)
Destination airport:Las Vegas-North Air Terminal, NV (VGT/KVGT)
On February 5, 2019, about 1815 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172M airplane, N20556, impacted mountainous terrain near Desert Hot Springs, California while on a cross-country flight to North Las Vegas Airport (VGT), Las Vegas, Nevada. The commercial pilot and his non pilot-rated passenger received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to Flying Academy Los Angeles (FALA), and was being operated as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Undetermined night meteorological conditions existed at the impact location at the time of the accident. The accident flight leg had originated from San Gabriel Valley Airport (EMT), El Monte, California.

FALA and the airplane were based at Corona Municipal Airport (AJO), Corona, California. According to FALA representatives, the pilot had rented the airplane and departed solo from AJO about 1530, destined for VGT, with plans to return either February 6 or February 7. FALA procedures require rental pilots to provide passenger names and emergency contact information prior to each flight, but the pilot did not comply with those procedures. Instead, according to eyewitnesses and EMT air traffic control tower information, the pilot flew from AJO to EMT, where he picked up the passenger, and then departed EMT about 1725.

Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated that when the airplane was south of Riverside Municipal Airport (RAL), Riverside, California, the pilot contacted SoCal TRACON (SCT) for VFR flight following services, with a reported destination of VGT. Due to radar antenna coverage limitations, radar services were terminated by SCT when the airplane was about 8 miles southwest of Banning Municipal Airport (BNG), Banning, California. Ground-based radar tracking data indicated that the airplane flew approximately eastbound through the Banning Pass, and then turned northbound. When the airplane was about 10 miles northwest of Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), at an altitude of 3,500 ft above mean sea level (msl), the pilot radioed SCT again. He again requested VFR flight following, and reported that he was following California Highway 62. While flying northbound, the airplane climbed to a radar-indicated altitude of 4,100 feet, and then descended until radar contact was lost about 1815. There was no subsequent radar or radio contact with the airplane, and an Alert Notice for the missing airplane was issued by air traffic control.

The wreckage was located during an aerial search about 2100, and subsequent access by ground personnel confirmed that the pilot did not survive. The airplane came to rest on a steep unstable hillside, about 300 ft west of Highway 62, and about 500 feet above the highway. Site elevation was about 2,500 ft msl. There was no fire. The wreckage was highly compressed, and only a very few components had completely separated from the airplane. The wreckage was recovered to a secure facility 2 days after the accident, for additional examination.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane singe-engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. That certificate was issued on January 7, 2019 by the FAA South Florida Flight Standards District Office. FALA personnel reported that the pilot had done the bulk of his flight training in Florida. They did not have any additional details regarding that training and activity, and reported that he had come to FALA in January 2019 "to build [flight] time." FALA records indicated that the pilot accrued 31 flight hours on FALA airplanes in January and February 2019. The investigation has not yet located the pilot's flight logbook or training records.

FAA records indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1973, and was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series engine. The airplane was registered to FALA in March 2017. Maintenance records indicated that as of January 30, 2019, the airplane had a total time (TT) in service of about 6,954 hours. The engine had been field-overhauled in Belgium in September 2018, and installed in the airplane in November 2018. Based on the tachometer hour meter at the accident site, the engine had accumulated about 265 hours since overhaul. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed in November 2018, coincident with the overhauled engine installation.

The 1753 automated weather observation at PSP, located about 12 miles south-southeast of the accident site, included winds from 030 at 12 knots, visibility 10 miles, broken cloud layer at 10,000 ft above ground level (agl), temperature 14 C, dew point -1 C, and an altimeter setting of 29.80 inches of mercury.

The 1815 automated weather observation at Big Bear Airport (L35), Big Bear, California, located about 20 miles northwest of the accident site, included winds from 240 at 12 knots, gusting to 19 knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 900 ft agl, broken cloud layer at 1,900 ft agl, overcast ceiling at 3,100 ft agl, temperature -6 C, dew point -9 C, and an altimeter setting of 29.74 inches of mercury.


Revision history:

06-Feb-2019 16:58 Captain Adam Added
06-Feb-2019 17:00 harro Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Total fatalities, Source, Damage]
06-Feb-2019 18:19 harro Updated [Date]
06-Feb-2019 20:33 Geno Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Source]
07-Feb-2019 12:49 RobertMB Updated [Aircraft type]
09-Feb-2019 01:24 Geno Updated [Total fatalities, Total occupants, Source, Narrative]
11-Feb-2019 20:29 MikeF Updated [Location, Narrative]
01-May-2019 19:59 Captain Adam Updated [Damage, Narrative]

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