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On July 12, 1994, at 1130 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172M, N64193, impacted rising terrain while maneuvering near Running Springs, California. The aircraft was owned and operated by Air Technical, Inc., and was on a ferry flight. Visual meteorological conditions were prevalent at the time and no flight plan had been filed for the operation. The certificated private pilot sustained fatal injuries. His passenger, a certificated private pilot, received serious injuries. The flight originated from the Sedona airport in Sedona, Arizona, at 0330 mountain standard time on the day of the accident with stopovers at San Bernardino and Redlands, California.
The purpose of the flight was to return the aircraft to San Bernardino International airport from Sedona airport. To accomplish this task, the operator had arranged for a certificated private pilot to fly the aircraft solo from Sedona to San Bernardino, where he was to pick up a second certificated private pilot who would then fly the first pilot back to Sedona, returning the aircraft to San Bernardino on a final solo flight.
The first pilot reported that the flight from Sedona to San Bernardino was uneventful. After arriving at the San Bernardino International airport at 0730 Pacific daylight time, he picked up a second pilot. At 1000, with the second pilot on the controls, the aircraft departed en route to the Redlands airport for refueling. After being refueled with 28 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel, both pilots departed at approximately 1100 en route to Sedona.
The first pilot stated that he and the second pilot planned to climb in a series of 360-degree turns and then upon reaching necessary terrain clearance, depart the area through the Cajon Pass. First, however, they were in the process of trying to locate a cabin that was located in the Lake Arrowhead area. Just prior to the accident, the first pilot reported that the aircraft had climbed near the 8,000-foot level when he felt the aircraft suddenly being forced down as if it had been "stepped on." He said he remembered seeing the terrain through the windscreen and having the sensation he was dropping rapidly. His next recollection was being outside the aircraft. He stated that he believes he was ejected through the windscreen.
He then stated that he tried to assist the second pilot exit the aircraft, but was unable to open the pilot's door. He observed that the second pilot was slumped over in his seat and was not moving. He reported that he was then forced to abandon his efforts to aid the second pilot due to a spreading postcrash fire.
Witnesses near the scene of the accident reported seeing an aircraft matching the description of the accident aircraft on two separate occasions the morning of the accident. From a position which varied from 1/2 to 1 mile, the witnesses twice watched an aircraft they believed to be the accident aircraft for about 3 minutes; on the first occasion, at approximately 1000, and the second time nearly an hour later at approximately 1100. The witnesses stated that on both occasions they observed an aircraft performing low-level maneuvers described as a series of climbs, turns, and descents which, at times, were estimated to have been performed within 50 feet of steep terrain near the 4,500-foot level. At times, they stated, they lost sight of the aircraft as it descended below higher terrain. One of the witnesses stated that he thought the aircraft was "chasing jack rabbits."
National Transportation Safety Board weather specialists reviewed the recorded weather conditions existing at the time of the accident. An examination of the data revealed light and variable wind conditions prevailed at the time of the accident inconsistent with mountain wave conditions.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft impacted midway up on a slope that measured 50 degrees at approximately the 4,500-foot level. The impact site was at the up slope end of a rising draw with steep terrain on three sides. The heading of the aircraft on impact was nearly perpendicular to the long axis of the draw. The accident site was covered with thick, dense vegetation which reached an average height of about 6 to 7 feet.
A postaccident inspection of the aircraft revealed a series of broken small limbs in the surrounding foliage. The measurement of an angle formed by a straight line from the broken limbs to the initial ground scar measured 60 degrees from horizontal. There was evidence of moderate crushing on the leading edge of both main wings. The aircraft had nosed over and the empennage was found, inverted, 9 feet in front of the nose of the aircraft. The aircraft had been consumed by fire.
The coroner reported that the pilot had succumbed to a combination of smoke inhalation and thermocutaneous injuries.
Initially, the aircraft wreckage was located by fire fighters who were responding to a reported forest fire. After dumping an aerial load of fire retardant directly on the fire, several "smoke jumpers" rappeled into the fire site and discovered the aircraft.
The source of fuel for the fire was aviation gasoline from both main fuel tanks. The resulting postcrash fire spread extensively, consuming major portions of the airframe.
The aircraft wreckage was released to the insurance adjuster representing the owner of the aircraft.
An emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was installed in the aircraft. There were no reports of an ELT signal at the time and location of this accident. The ELT was subsequently destroyed in the postcrash fire.