NTSB Identification: WPR13FA294
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 27, 2013 in Birdseye, UT
Aircraft: CESSNA 172M, registration: N4459R
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

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 June 27, 2013, about 1020 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 172M, N4459R, was substantially damaged when it struck powerlines and terrain during an attempted emergency landing on a road near Birdseye, Utah. The airplane was owned and operated by IMSAR Aviation, a wholly owned subsidiary of IMSAR, Springville, Utah. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the required crewmember received fatal injuries. The radar equipment test flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

According to representatives of IMSAR, the airplane was one of two Cessna 172 airplanes used as test platforms for the development and testing of airborne radar systems. The airplanes were based at Spanish Fork-Springville airport (U77), Springville. IMSAR employed one full-time pilot, and occasionally utilized the services of contract pilots. On the morning of the accident, the IMSAR pilot was operating the other company airplane, and a contract pilot was operating the accident airplane. The mission plan was to fly predetermined tracks and/or orbits at a location about 16 miles south of U77, at an altitude of about 8,000 feet, for several hours.

According to preliminary information from the pilot, about 2 hours after departure, an overheat/smoke/fire event in the cabin was detected, and after an initial attempt to fly to the north (towards U77) to locate a suitable landing location, the pilot opted to land on a north-south road near his current location. He configured the airplane for landing, and set up to land to the south on the road. On short final, the pilot noticed a powerline that crossed the road was in his path, and pulled up in an attempt to overfly it. The airplane struck that wire, and then struck other powerlines and terrain. There was no post impact fire. Passers-by came to the aid of the pilot, and contacted emergency services to notify them of the accident.

The accident site was located about 15 miles south of U77, at an elevation of about 5,500 feet. The airplane was examined on-site by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel on the day of the accident, and then by FAA, NTSB, and Cessna Aircraft Company personnel the day after the accident. Examination revealed that a supplemental electrical system installed to provide power for the radar equipment and associated test equipment had overheated and began to burn. No evidence of overheating or fire was observed on any wiring or electrical components of the airplane itself; thermal damage was confined to the operator-installed electrical system and airplane furnishings (carpet, sidewalls, etc.). The airplane and components were recovered and transported to a secure facility for additional examination.

FAA information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1974 as Cessna serial number 17263201, and was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series engine. The airplane was purchased by IMSAR Aviation in February 2013, and modified for mounting and testing of the radar equipment. IMSAR Aviation utilized the services of an independent FAA mechanic with an inspection authorization rating for some of the modifications. The airplane was registered in the restricted category.

The 0955 automated weather observation at an airport located about 20 miles north of the accident site included variable wind at 3 knots; visibility 15 miles; clear skies; temperature 26 degrees C; dew point 9 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.25 inches of mercury.

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