On January 5, 2000, at about 2146 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172R, N156RA, registered to Airline Training Academy, operating as a 14 CFR Part 91 instructional flight, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 4.1 miles east of St. Augustine Airport, St. Augustine, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. Components from the accident airplane washed to shore about 5 to 7miles north of St. Augustine Inlet, St. Augustine, Florida. The private pilot was located on January 6, 2000, and was fatally injured. The flight originated from Orlando, Florida, about 1 hour 31 minutes before the accident.

According to Jacksonville approach the pilot contacted them at 21:41:22 (0242:42 UTC) and requested VFR flight following from Orlando Executive Airport to Craig Municipal Airport, Jacksonville, Florida. The pilot was provided a transponder code, identified at 2,600 feet, heading 019 degrees, 104 knots, three miles south of St. Augustine, Florida, at 0242:37. The airplane was observed on radar at 2,000 feet, heading 013 degrees, 112 knots at 0245:24. At 0245:57, the airplane was observed at 1200 feet, heading 051 degrees, and the ground speed had increased to 124 knots. The pilot stated at 0245:58, "I haven't any direction finder I don't see anything one five six ro" The controller asked the pilot to say again with negative results. At 0246:28 the controller stated, "November one five six romeo alpha radar contact is lost two and a half miles northeast of St. Augustine ah if you can hear me ident."


The pilot held a private pilot certificate issued on December 31, 1999, for airplane single engine land. The pilot held a first-class medical certificate issued on September 21, 1999, with no restrictions. Review of Airline Training Academy (ATA) Private Pilot Training records revealed the pilot started the private pilot course on September 21, 1999. The pilot had accumulated 95.2 total flight hours in the Cessna 152, of which 10.4 hours were as the pilot-in-command, and 84.8 hours were dual instruction. The pilot had accumulated 11.4 hours of cross flight of which 6.8 hours was solo, 4.4 hours were night dual instruction and 3.6 hours of simulated instruments. Further review of ATA training records revealed the pilot started the commercial and instrument course, and was qualified in the Cessna 172 on January 2, 2000. During the instrument phase of training, the pilot received 4 .3 hours of dual instruction, 2 hours of simulated instrument flight (Hood), and 2 hours in a flight simulator. He completed 8 hours of dual instruction since the beginning of the commercial phase of training; 5 were night flight, and 7.5 hours were dual cross-country flight. The last recorded simulated instrument flight and night dual cross-country flight was on January 4, 2000.


Review of maintenance records revealed a 100-hour inspection was conducted on December 18, 1999, and the tach reading was 97.9 hours. The altimeter system, static pressure system, and transponder were inspected on October 12, 1999. Review of ATA dispatch records revealed that N156RA was dispatched for flight with a tach reading of 151.9 hours. The airplane was refueled on January 5, 2000, by Executive Air Center Inc., Orlando, Florida.


The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Craig Municipal Airport, Jacksonville, Florida. The 1750 surface weather observation was: 3,500 scattered, visibility 10 miles, temperature 42 degrees Fahrenheit, dewpoint temperature 38 degrees Fahrenheit, wind from 360 degrees at 6 knots, and altimeter 30.32 in g. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Review of sun and moon data obtained from the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Application Department for St. Johns County, Florida, on January 5, 2000, revealed the moon set at 1659, and its phase was awaiting crescent with only 1 percent illumination.


The engine assembly and accessories, left and right wings, cabin/fuselage and tail section of N156RA was not located. The following wreckage was recovered and examined:

ELT Pilot seat. Right front passenger seat. Nose tire, left and right landing tire. Segment of the propeller cowling. Top engine cowling, and segment of the left and right lower engine cowling. Left side refueling step and a 11"x 15" piece of the forward left floor board. Cowl Deck (Eyebrow). Left and right sections of cabin carpet. Aft cabin left side head liner. Right aft cabin liner with communication ports. Left and right aft wing center section. ADF antenna.

Examination of the pilot seat revealed the back seat cushion and the bottom seat cushion are attached to the base frame. The seatbelt and shoulder harness assembly is partially attached to a partial section of the wing spar carry through. The right side bottom roller assemblies (forward/aft) separated from the seat rail. The right side bottom seat brace is canted inwards toward the left The left side bottom roller assemblies (forward/aft) are attached to the seat rail. The seat rail separated from the cabin flooring, and the seat rail is slightly canted to the left. Three inches of the forward attach point is bent upward and aft. The seat adjustment lever is missing.

Examination of the right front passenger seat revealed the back seat cushion and the bottom seat cushion are attached to the base frame. The lap belt retractor assembly separated from the seat frame. The seatbelt and shoulder harness assembly is attached to a partial section of the wing spar carry through. The right side bottom roller assemblies (forward/aft) are attached to a section of the seat rail and cabin flooring. The right side bottom seat rail is canted inward towards the left. Thirteen inches of the forward seat rail (forward attach point) is canted to the left, upward and aft. The left bottom roller assembly is attached to a segment of the seat rail. The forward bottom roller assembly is separated from the attach point with the left rail guide missing. The seat rail is canted to the left, bent upward and aft. All seat adjustment levers are attached to the seat.


Postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted by Dr. Terrance Steiner, Medical Examiner, District 23, St. Augustine, Florida, on January 7, 2000. The cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries. Postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot was performed by the Forensic Toxicology Research section, Federal aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. These studies were negative for ethanol, basic, acidic, and neutral drugs.


Advisory Circular 60-4 states in part, "The attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual references with the surface. If neither horizon or surface reference exists, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. Sight supported by other senses, allow the pilot to maintain orientation. However during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen. When this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of orientation may vary considerably with individual pilots. Spatial disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which way is "up."...Surface references and the natural horizon may at times become obscured, although visibility may be above flight rule minimums. Lack of natural horizon or such reference is common on over water flights, at night, and specially at night in extremely sparsely populated areas, or in low visibility conditions....The disoriented pilot may place the aircraft in a dangerous attitude....Therefore, the use of flight instruments is essential to maintain proper attitude when encountering any of the elements which may result in spatial disorientation."


All recovered components from N156RA was released to Mr. Kevin Rosa, President, Command Aircraft Parts and Recovery Inc., Bunnell, Florida, on March 22, 2000.

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