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On April 13, 1994, approximately 2115 Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Cessna 182Q, N4887N, impacted the terrain about five miles west of The Dalles, Oregon. The private pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries, and the aircraft was destroyed. The personal pleasure flight, which departed Winnemucca Municipal Airport, Winnemucca, Nevada, about three hours earlier, was in visual meteorological conditions at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed, and there was no report of an ELT activation.
The aircraft, which had arrived at the Mesquite Airport, Mesquite, Nevada, around 1930 on April 12, was reported to have departed the same airport sometime around 1600 on the day of the accident. The aircraft was next observed later that evening at the airport in Winnemucca, Nevada. It landed there between 1800 and 1830, and took on 42.9 gallons of 100 low-lead aviation fuel. The individual who helped service the aircraft at Winnemucca reported that there seemed to be nothing unusual about the aircraft or either of its occupants. Soon after refueling, the aircraft departed Winnemucca, and there were no other reported sightings or contacts with the aircraft until it was observed in the area of The Dalles, Oregon, about 10 minutes prior the crash. The pilot made no contact with FAA Flight Service or Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities during this flight, and there is no record of him contacting Flight Service for a briefing prior to departure.
Once in the area of The Dalles, the aircraft was observed by numerous witnesses from the time it was first noticed over the town of The Dalles, until it impacted the terrain just north of the County Rock Pit on Seven Mile Road. Most of the witnesses who saw the aircraft described seeing a continuous series of low-level erratic maneuvers. The aircraft was reported to be constantly changing the direction it was heading, and it repeatedly made short term rapid climbs and descents. One person who watched the aircraft for about two minutes said that the movement of the aircraft appeared similar to those he had observed when pilots were practicing stalls at higher altitudes. All of the witnesses who actually heard the aircraft's engine, described it as surging, sputtering, running intermittently, or constantly changing from idle to full power.
During the 10 minutes that these erratic maneuvers were observed, the aircraft was seen flying at numerous locations within a five mile radius of The Dalles. Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft southeast, southwest and west of town, as well as at very low levels over the town itself.
During its last minute of flight, the aircraft was observed flying in a westerly direction up the Seven Mile Road canyon. At a point just west of the gravel pit, where the terrain begins to rise rapidly, the aircraft reversed course, and started back toward the northeast. One witness said that the plane was so low prior to its course reversal that it appeared the pilot was trying to land. About one minute after it turned back down the canyon, while attempting what appeared to a witness to be a level turn, the aircraft reportedly rolled left and descended steeply into the terrain.
The weather observation taken at The Dalles Airport, which is located approximately six miles east of the accident site, at 2022 PDT, showed 2,500 scattered, measured 3,500 overcast, 12 miles visibility, temperature 50 degrees, dewpoint 41 degrees, winds 280 degree at 13 knots, and an altimeter setting of 30.01 inches.
Witness reported that there were "gusty" winds of more than 20 mph in the general area, and that a light drizzle was falling near the accident site, but there was no rain closer into town. They also said that, although there were "solid" clouds overhead, even through the light drizzle, they could see lights on a ridge northeast of the airport. They estimated these lights to be 10 to 15 miles away.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft impacted an open grassy field at about the 1,200 foot level of the rising terrain just north of the gravel pit on Seven Mile Road. At the most downhill point of the impact site was a two inch deep ground scar which contained pieces of shattered fiberglass from the right wing-tip, and broken green glass from the right wing-tip navigation light. From that point to the crater that contained the engine was a shallow ground scar running on a magnetic heading of 285 degrees. This scar was approximately 15 feet long, and ended at the four foot wide, 16 inch deep crater. Dirt that had been forced out of the crater by the impact was thrown up to 36 feet to the west. Along the western edge of the crater, displaced dirt had formed a berm two feet wide and eight inches high. The remainder of the wreckage, except for the left lift strut, was spread over and around this crater. The left lift strut was found with the dirt that had been thrown west of the crater.
The aircraft fuselage, from the firewall to just forward of the empennage, had broken into numerous small pieces of accordioned sheet metal. The engine compartment, instrument panel, cabin, and baggage compartment were destroyed. The only portion of the fuselage which remained relatively intact was the empennage, but both horizontal and vertical stabilizers were crushed directly rearward almost to their spars. The right wing was also found broken into many small pieces of crushed and accordioned sheet metal. The left wing, which was still essentially intact, except for separation of the aileron, showed direct rearward crushing, back to the aft spar, along its entire span. The right lift strut had been pulled loose from its fuselage attach point, and had been sheared at about one-half of its length. The left lift strut, which was bent at about one-half of its length, had been ripped loose from both the wing and fuselage attach points. Flight control continuity was unable to be positively established due to the extent of damage generated by the impact.
One propeller blade, which was bent forward about 35 degrees along its outboard half, showed a substantial amount of chord-wise paint and surface scarring along its inboard half. The other blade, which showed a gentle forward bowing along most of its span, had chord-wise paint scarring along its inboard one- quarter, and a number of well-defined indentations along its leading edge.
The engine, which had been buried in the crater, was recovered and subjected to a total disassembly and inspection teardown. The magnetos, carburetor, oil cooler, starter, alternator, propeller governor, intake and exhaust systems, and vacuum pump, which had separated on impact, were also examined. No evidence of pre- impact malfunctions or anomalies were noted.
ADDITIONAL DATA AND INFORMATION
During one of the earliest sightings after the aircraft arrived in the area of The Dalles, it was seen flying very erratically over the town itself. The location of the aircraft at that point was about two miles south of The Dalles Airport. At the time of the accident, The Dalles Airport had an operational rotating beacon, and a pilot activated medium intensity runway light (MIRL) system, which could be activated over the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). This system of locating the airport and runway at night is the same system that was provided at the pilot's destination airport, which was also where he kept his aircraft tied down on a permanent basis.
The aircraft was released for recovery to Specialty Aircraft of Redmond, Oregon, a representative of the owner, on April 14, 1994.
An autopsy was performed by Karen Gunson, M.D., and the cause of death was determined to be massive blunt force trauma.
A forensic toxicological examination was performed by the Armed Forces Institute Of Pathology, and no ethanol or screened drugs were found. Carbon monoxide and cyanide analysis were not able to be performed due to lack of suitable specimen.