(Witness) Observed The Accident Airplane In A “Crazy” Nose-High Pitch Attitude

Location: Newport News, VA Accident Number: ERA23FA008
Date & Time: October 6, 2022, 15:07 Local Registration: N97883
Aircraft: Cessna 172 Injuries: 1 Fatal, 2 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional 

On October 6, 2022, at 1507 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172, N97883, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF), Newport News, Virginia. The flight instructor was fatally injured, and the student pilot and the pilot rated passenger were seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight.

A review of airport surveillance video revealed that after the airplane departed runway 20, it entered a steep (nose-high) pitch attitude. The airplane began to turn left while in this nosehigh attitude and reached an altitude of about 50-100 ft before it made a descending left-hand turn and impacted terrain west of the runway.

A witness, who was a flight instructor, was taxing south on taxiway alpha when he observed the accident airplane in a “crazy” nose-high pitch attitude (about 30 degrees nose up) on takeoff. The airplane reached a height of about 200 ft above the ground, when the left wing stalled and dropped. The witness thought the instructor of the accident airplane tried to recover from the stall because the airplane’s wings leveled out momentarily before the left wing dropped again, and the airplane hit the ground on its belly. The witness described what he observed as a “power on stall.”

The airplane came to rest in a drainage ditch on a magnetic heading of about 090 degrees. All major components of the airplane were located at the accident site and there was no postimpact fire. Flight control continuity was established for all major flight control surfaces to the cockpit. The flaps were in the fully retracted position, and the elevator trim tab actuator was found in the 5-degree tab-up position. 

The airplane wreckage was retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov