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On July 2, 1994, at approximately 1445 hours Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Piper PA-18A-150, N8565D, registered to and being flown by Dennis J. Murray, a certificated airline transport pilot, was destroyed during an inflight collision with terrain during an uncontrolled descent following a loss of control while maneuvering in the vicinity of the Fish Lake USFS airport near Lowell, Idaho. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions at the accident site were unknown at the time and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was personal in nature, was to have been operated in accordance with 14CFR91, and originated from the Nampa Airport, Nampa, Idaho.
An employee (Ed McConnell) at the Nampa airport (where the aircraft was based) reported seeing pilot Murray and passenger Kompf loading camping gear into N8565D on the morning of July 2. He reported that the aircraft was fueled on the previous day and that the pilot and passenger discussed flying to Northern Idaho to go camping. He estimated that the aircraft departed Nampa between 1030 and 1100 hours mountain daylight time.
Mr. Mark Kuhlman, a forest service ranger who was several miles from the airstrip on July 2, reported hearing a plane flying in the area of Fish Lake approximately 1400 hours. He also reported talking to several horseback riders "who saw a white and red plane flying low over Sponge Mountain heading toward Fish Lake about 2PM Saturday" (refer to Statement of Mr. Kuhlman).
There were no known witnesses to the accident and Ranger Kuhlman, having seen smoke on the morning of July 3, was the first known person on site.
Pilot Murray reported a total of 14,300 hours of flight experience at his last medical examination (May 27, 1994) of which 300 hours were accrued in the previous six months. He was a pilot for American Airlines and was type rated in a number of reciprocating and turbine powered aircraft.
Mr. Robert McPhie, who was interviewed telephonically, reported that he had known pilot Murray for 25 years and had flown into Fish Lake USFS with him approximately one year earlier. He reported that pilot Murray flew into Fish Lake USFS frequently and that it was one of his favorite airports.
The aircraft received an annual inspection on December 2, 1993, at a total time of 3917.12 hours (1539.68 tach), and the last maintenance recorded was on June 3, 1994, at a tach time of 1561.6 hours.
FAA records indicate that pilot Murray purchased N8565D on April 5, 1992, and the airframe log showed the tach time on April 3 as 1336.7 hours.
Mr. Delbert Schwaderer, an airline transport pilot operating out of Missoula, Montana, reported that he flew into Fish Lake USFS on the morning of July 2. He reported that the weather conditions at the strip were bad with low clouds, rain and turbulent winds and a strong southwesterly wind. After landing, the weather worsened and he remained at the airstrip for an hour and a half before being able to depart. He also reported that the weather conditions worsened during the day.
Mr. Mark Kuhlman reported that "the weather conditions were generally blustery - alternating directions of wind gusts, scattered showers, drizzle, and periods of sunshine and warm winds."
The Fish Creek USFS airstrip is a 2800 foot long, 150 wide, turf airstrip which is unidirectional, with landings conducted on runway 22 and takeoffs on runway 4 (refer to photographs 01/02). Both the Idaho Airport Facilities Directory and the US Government Flight Information Publication Airport/Facilities Directory state that "Go arounds (are) not recommended due to steep rising terrain off the west end of (the) runway" as well as "recommend early morning and late evening operations during summer months" (refer to ATTACHMENTS I and II).
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft crashed at a location approximately 350 feet southeast (abeam the centerline of the runway) and approximately 500 feet short of the upwind end of runway 22 (refer to photographs 03/04). The latitude and longitude of the site was 46 degrees 19.692 minutes North and 115 degrees 03.896 minutes west at an elevation of 5650 feet above mean sea level (MSL). The terrain at the accident site was level and heavily forested with conifer trees (refer to CHART I).
All wreckage was found at the ground impact site and no conifer trees were observed to have been broken with the exception of the top of tree T1 (refer to Supplement I, page 3, and photograph 01). The magnetic bearing from tree T1 to the ground impact site was 240/060 degrees. Trees T2 and T3 were located between tree T1 and the ground impact site. Tree T2 displayed an area on its southeast face where the lateral branches were absent, while tree T3 displayed a similar area on its northwest face (refer to photograph 01). Broken branches were observed lying at the bases of each of these trees. The angle from the broken top of tree T1, through the previously described faces of trees T2 and T3 and on to the ground impact site was approximately -47 degrees.
The aircraft was heavily damaged by post crash fire and no cockpit documentation could be acquired. Only the aircraft's structural tubing remained and a portion of the right wing (refer to photographs 06 though 09).
A noticeable impression in the grass was observed extending on a magnetic bearing of 120/300 degrees extending from the ground impact site and parallel to the final resting place of the aircraft's right wing leading edge. White paint chips were observed scattered throughout this impression (refer to photograph 10). The remaining portion of the right wing leading edge displayed no significant impact impressions.
The aircraft's propeller was located imbedded in the soil. It had separated from the engine at the propeller flange attachment just outboard of the shaft. The outer flange ring and attaching bolts remained attached to the propeller. The flange displayed a "coning" effect inboard of the bolts and at the points of separation between the flange and its drive shaft (refer to photographs 12 through 13). Each propeller blade was observed to be bent aftward. The spinner was crushed and there were leading edge cuts and angled scratches across the blades (refer to photograph 14).
No evidence of any primary control discontinuity was found within the wreckage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Post mortem examination of pilot Murray was conducted by Robert W. Cihak, M.D., at Pathologist's Regional Laboratory, Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, Post Office Box 956, Lewiston, Idaho, 83501, on July 5, 1994.
A report of the toxicological evaluation of samples from pilot Murray was provided by the Department of Defense, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (attached).
On site examination of the wreckage was conducted on the afternoon of July 5, 1995. The wreckage was then verbally released on the same afternoon to the Clearwater National Forest District Headquarters of the US Forest Service, in Grangeville, Idaho, pending identification of the owner's insurance carrier. Written wreckage release to Mr. Lew Valkenaar, Frontier Aviation Adjustors, is documented on NTSB Form 6120.15 (attached).