Conducting A Low Pass Over An Off-Airport Landing Strip At An Altitude Of 100 Ft Above The Ground

Location: Lone Pine, California Accident Number: WPR23LA322
Date & Time: August 18, 2023, 19:10 Local Registration: N4537Y
Aircraft: Grumman American Avn. Corp. AA-5B Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT) Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

Analysis: The pilot reported that, while conducting a low pass over an off-airport landing strip at an altitude of 100 ft above the ground, the airplane encountered a downdraft. The pilot felt the airplane was unable to climb out of the valley without stalling, so he maintained airspeed, but the airplane descended and impacted the ground. The airplane subsequently rebounded and came to a rest in an upright position, which resulted in substantial damage to both wings, fuselage, and empennage. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings: The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be — The pilot’s inability to maintain altitude after encountering a downdraft, which resulted in collision with terrain.