On April 11, 1996, about 0824 mountain daylight time, a privately owned Cessna 177B, registration N35207, collided with terrain after a loss of control following takeoff from runway 30 at the Cheyenne Airport, Cheyenne, Wyoming. The pilot in command, pilot trainee, and rear seat passenger (the pilot trainee's father) were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions existed at the time, and a visual flight rules flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was a continuation of a transcontinental flight "record" attempt by the youngest "pilot" to date (the pilot trainee), was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot in command's improper decision to take off into deteriorating weather conditions (including turbulence, gusty winds, and an advancing thunderstorm and associated precipitation) when the airplane was overweight and when the density altitude was higher than he was accustomed to, resulting in a stall caused by failure to maintain airspeed. Contributing to the pilot in command's decision to take off was a desire to adhere to an overly ambitious itinerary, in part, because of media commitments.
The safety issues discussed in the report include fatigue, the effects of media attention and itinerary pressure, and aeronautical decision making. A recommendation concerning the circumstances of this accident and the importance of aeronautical decision making was made to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the National Association of Flight Instructors. Recommendations concerning aeronautical decision making and the hazards of fatigue and were made to the Federal Aviation Administration.
As a result of the investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:
To the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the National Association of Flight Instructors:
Disseminate information about the circumstances of this accident and continue to emphasize to your members the importance of aeronautical decision making. (A-97-19)
To the Federal Aviation Administration:
Expand the development and increase the dissemination of educational materials on the hazards of fatigue to the general aviation piloting community. (A-97-20)
Incorporate the lessons learned from this accident into educational materials on aeronautical decision making. (A-97-21)