Lack of altitude, power blamed in mountain crash
A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board cites a lack of altitude and power as contributing factors in the March 18 plane crash on Holston Mountain that injured the pilot and two passengers.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB reviewed flight wreckage and interviewed the pilot from the crash to develop the report. The NTSB noted the findings were preliminary and could change when the final report was released at a later date.
According to the report, the pilot told investigators he left the airport from Runway 6 and headed north toward Holston Mountain.
“While following the upslope of the mountain at a 500-foot-per-minute rate of ascent, and nearing a mountain peak, the pilot realized the airplane would not clear the upcoming terrain,” the report stated. “The pilot considered returning to the airport, but noticed a small valley to his right that appeared to have a lower terrain elevation.”
The report said the pilot then turned toward the valley, but the airplane started to descend during the turn.
“After leveling the wings, the pilot determined he was going to crash and rolled the aircraft on its left side to avoid trees,” the report said. “The left wing impacted trees, the airplane fell to the ground and came to rest on its left side.”
During a post-crash interview with FAA and NTSB officials, the pilot is quoted as saying he “should have gained more altitude before starting his climb over the mountain, but felt the airplane ‘should have had more power’.”
The report said an examination of the plane after the crash by the FAA and the airframe manufacturer “did not reveal any anomalies or malfunctions to the airframe that would have precluded normal operation.”
The NTSB has retained the airplane’s engine for further examination.
The crash occurred at around 7:30 p.m. on March 18 when a Cessna 172k from Wadsworth, Ohio, left the Elizabethton Municipal Airport after a fuel stop. The plane crashed at Cannon Place Gap on Holston Mountain above Bernie Lewis Road at an elevation of 3,000 feet. The crash was located on the back side of the mountain on a very steep section of terrain.
The plane had been destined for Weltzien Skypark in Wadsworth, Ohio, when the crash occurred. The flight had left from Charleston, S.C,. and started to run low on fuel. It first landed at the Mountain City airport but was unable to get fuel and then moved on to the Elizabethton Airport to refuel.