NTSB Identification: WPR11FA029
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, October 25, 2010 in Morton, WA
Aircraft: CESSNA 340A, registration: N68718
Injuries: 3 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On October 25, 2010, about 0740 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 340A, N68718, experienced an in-flight loss of control followed by an uncontrolled descent into mountainous terrain about 9 miles northeast of Morton, Washington. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airline transport certificated pilot and two passengers were killed during the business flight. The airplane was owned and operated by Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute (PCLI), Chehalis, Washington. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and it originated from Chehalis about 0725.
The operator's chief pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the PCLI's flight was performed for the purpose of transporting two company employees to one of their business offices. Prior to the flight he had not received information indicating any anomalies in the operation of the accident airplane systems, including engine assemblies and attitude reference instruments.
The accident pilot received an IFR clearance as filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the flight commenced. FAA recorded radar track data and communications between the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and the accident pilot were initially routine. The pilot proceeded flying in an easterly direction toward his Lewiston, Idaho, destination.
En route, the airplane's altitude was automatically broadcast to the radar controller. About 0737:24, the airplane climbed through 13,600 feet, and by 0738:20, it had climbed to 14,600 feet. At this time, while continuing flight in an east-northeasterly direction toward the pilot's destination, the pilot requested and received a clearance to climb higher than his assigned altitude. The pilot requested clearance to climb to 17,000 feet.
The Seattle ARTCC controller provided the pilot with the requested clearance. The radar data indicated that the airplane continued climbing until reaching a maximum altitude of 14,900 feet at 0738:38.
About 1/2-minute later, at 0739:03, as the airplane was descending through 14,700 feet, the pilot broadcast that he was heading back to Chehalis. The radar track indicated that the airplane had commenced a clockwise turn. Seconds later, as the airplane was descending through 14,600 feet, the pilot stated "…we've lost an engine."
The airplane continued descending while turning in a clockwise direction, and by 0739:48, it was descending through 10,700 feet. This was the last airplane altitude recorded by radar. About 15 seconds later, at 0740:03, the pilot stated "we're losing it." This was the last transmission received from the pilot. The airplane dropped off radar while continuing its clockwise descending turn.
Several employees of a logging company, who were located in a forest about 8 miles northeast of Morton, subsequently reported to authorities that they had heard the sound of a descending airplane. The sound was loud enough to be heard over the noise of their operating equipment. The workers recalled that, at the time, a light rain was falling, low clouds were present, and it was not particularly windy.
After the logging company employees learned that an airplane had, in fact, crashed and were informed of its approximation location, they informed the Safety Board investigator that they believe their location had been between 1/4 and 1/2 mile from the crash site.
The Safety Board's on scene examination of the accident site and airplane wreckage revealed fragmented portions of the cockpit and engine components in a 5-foot-deep impact crater. Several hundred components were also found scattered over the 20- to 30-degree downsloping forested terrain within the 160-foot-long debris field. The debris field fanned out over a 45-degree arc from the main impact area.
The wreckage was recovered from the 2,900-foot mean sea level mountainside and was examined. All major structural components of the airframe and most engine components were located in the vicinity of the impact crater. No evidence of fire was found. Pertinent portions of the engines, turbochargers, propeller assemblies, and airplane systems have been secured for follow up examination.
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