“Ran Into Weather Can’t See Anything”

Location: Hardy, AR Accident Number: CEN22FA082
Date & Time: December 26, 2021, 17:29 Local Registration: N5798T
Aircraft: Cessna 172E Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On December 26, 2021, about 1729 central standard time, a Cessna 172E airplane, N5798T, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Hardy, Arkansas. The private pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A preliminary review of track data indicated that the airplane had already been airborne before it was visible on radar. The airplane first appeared about 13 nm north of the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport (ARG), Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, at 1627, at an altitude of about 2,500 ft. The airplane flew generally south toward ARG until track data was lost at about 1643, 3.5 nm north of ARG.

At 1653, about 3 nm north of ARG, the airplane reappeared in track data, climbing out of about 2,800 ft. The airplane flew left and right several times in a back and forth “s-type” movement and then straightened out, flew west-north-west, and climbed to an altitude of about 4,500 ft, then descended lower in the latter part of the flight.

At 1722, the airplane crossed over the Sharp County Regional Airport (CVK), Ash Flat, Arkansas, from east to west at an altitude of about 4,000 ft. When the airplane was almost 2.5 nm west-north-west of CVK, the airplane turned right, descended slowly, and flew a track consistent with an attempt to make an approach to CVK, then the airplane entered a tight left turn and traveled to the north. During this time there were abrupt changes in ground speed, altitude, and the direction of flight. The airplane executed at least one sharp counterclockwise loop and flew generally north-north-east bound until track data was lost about 1728.

The Fulton County (Arkansas) Sheriff’s Office was provided copies of text messages the pilot sent to a family member while in flight. One text message stated, “ran into weather can’t see anything” and another text message later stated, “out of gas in air.” The wreckage, which was located on heavily wooded private property, was destroyed by the impact sequence. The accident site is in the Ozark Mountains. The wreckage was recovered from the accident site for a future examination.

A witness, who lives about 1 mile north of the accident site, reported that he observed “heavy fog” in the area at the time and he estimated the visibility to be about 500 ft. Astronomical conditions indicated the accident occurred right after the conclusion of civil twilight, which occurred at 1726. Sunset occurred at 1657.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the pilot did not hold an instrument rating.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov