Student Pilot Crashes Rented Gran Aire Cessna — (NTSB)

SSRI Ed note: Suicidal pilot on several antidepressants rents plane for solo flight, does not follow plan, disappears, has fatal crash.

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NTSB Identification: CHI05FA194


On July 20, 2005, about 0740 central daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N65875, operated by Gran Aire as a rental airplane and piloted by a student pilot, was destroyed on impact with trees and terrain while maneuvering near Jackson, Wisconsin. The solo instructional flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was on file. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The local flight originated from the Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport (MWC), near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 0725.

According to the student’s flight instructor, the purpose of the flight was for the student to perform ground reference maneuvers in a practice area north of MWC for an hour. The instructor and student were scheduled to fly together after the morning solo flight.

The instructor and flight school started to inquire about the student’s flight and contacted the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control Tower at MWC about 1010, in reference to the student pilot’s flight not returning. Flight school employees called and drove to local airports inquiring in reference to the student pilot’s flight. About 1100, a representative of the school contacted the Green Bay Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and informed the flight service station representative that the flight was overdue. The flight school had also sent airplanes to search for the overdue flight.

Air Force Rescue Coordination Center records showed that an emergency locator transmitter signal was first picked up at 1041. At 1201, the center contacted Green Bay AFSS to confirm no missing or overdue aircraft. At 1401, the center was aware of the overdue airplane. At 1410, the center started to contact the Civil Air Patrol in reference to the overdue airplane. At 1431, the center received notification that the Civil Air Patrol would have a search airplane up in 20 minutes. At 1449, the center received an Alert Notice (ALNOT) from Green Bay AFSS on the overdue airplane. At 1549, the center received notification that the ALNOT was cancelled and that the wreckage was found. The Washington County Sheriff’s department had located the wreckage about five miles south of the West Bend Airport.

The sheriff’s department took a statement from a witness. The statement, in part, said:

I was driving to work South on [Washington County Highway G and] turned onto  Pleasant Valley Rd. I saw a small plane nose down just above the tree line on the  south/west corner. … I continued slowly along Pleasant Valley looking for smoke and saw nothing. I never heard a crash. … I noticed [a] corn field South of the marsh North of Hwy 60 and assumed it was a crop dusting plane I saw. This all occurred around 7:45 AM.


The pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate and student pilot certificate. That medical certificate was issued on March 16, 2005, with a limitation that he “shall wear corrective lenses.” An instructor certifying that the pilot met the requirements and was competent for solo flight in a Cessna 172 endorsed that certificate.

He had accumulated about 61 hours of total flight time. His first solo flight occurred on June 26, 2005 and his second solo was on July 19, 2004.


N65875, a 1983 Cessna 172P, serial number 17275910, was a high wing, propeller-driven, fixed landing gear, semi-monocoque design, four-seat airplane. A 160-horsepower, four-cylinder, air cooled, horizontally opposed, carbureted, Lycoming O-320-D2J, serial number RL 18353-39A, engine, powered the airplane. The propeller was a two-bladed, all-metal, fixed pitch, McCauley model.

The airplane’s logbooks showed that an annual inspection was completed on May 8, 2005, and a 100-hour inspection was completed on July 6, 2005. The airplane had accumulated 3696.4 hours of total time at the date of the 100-hour inspection. The airplane departed with Hobbs meter reading of 29.1.


The Washington County Medical Examiner’s office arranged for the autopsy that was performed on the pilot.

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute prepared a Final Forensic Toxicology Accident Report. The report stated:

0.074 (ug/ml, ug/g) DIPHENHYDRAMINE (Benedryl) detected in Blood DIPHENHYDRAMINE detected in Liver

The NTSB’s Medical Officer, from the pilot’s medical records maintained by the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division, extracted the following information:

3/16/05 – The pilot’s only recent application for 3rd class Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate indicates “no” for item 17.a. “Do you currently use any medication” and for all items under “18. Medical History,” including specifically item 18.m. “Mental disorders of any sort: depression, anxiety, etc.”

The NTSB’s Medical Officer, from the medical records maintained on the pilot by his psychiatrist, extracted the following information:

3/27/98 – “Psychiatric Intake Assessment” notes “… onset depression 1993. …severe depression, being overwhelmed by stress, and suicidal ideation. … It appears that patient has had problems prior to that with mild depression. He has been on Paxil [paroxetine] for at least the last two and a half years with significant, dramatic improvements in overall symptomatology. … notes that he has gone without his medications several times for brief periods, such as 36 to 48 hours, with resulting severe withdrawal symptomatology, including onset of mild suicidal ideation. … Provisional Diagnosis: … Major Depression, single episode,
in remission …”

4/23/01 – “Psychiatric Follow-up” notes that the pilot reports “Slight increase in symptoms of depression for last 4 weeks since decreasing Paxil … suicidal intention, … anhedonia … safe for outpatient treatment for now ... increase Paxil ... refer to psychotherapist …”

1/28/03 – “Psychiatric Follow-up” notes that the pilot “… continues to report chronic depression – but slightly better on Celexa [citalopram] … no suicidal ideations … will try Lexapro [escitalopram] …”

There are no records dated later than 1/28/03.