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On September 4, 1994, at 1705 Alaska daylight time, a float equipped Piper PA-18 airplane, N7867D, registered to and operated by the pilot, crashed near the headwaters of the Black River, which is located 39 nautical miles west of Gulkana, Alaska. The personal flight, operating under 14 CFR Part 91 for the purposes of hunting, last departed Fire Lake in Eagle River, Alaska, and the destination was a field site near the accident site. No flight plan was filed and visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The pilot was fatally injured and his passenger received serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged.
Logbooks for the pilot were not located. However, according to records at Federal Aviation Administration, Airman Certification, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the pilot had 1500 hours total flight time listed on his last medical application, which was dated May 1, 1992. The records show that the May 1, 1992 application, for a class 3 medical certificate, was the latest medical certificate issued to the pilot. The accident occurred on September 4, 1994, 28 months after the medical certificate's issue. According to the Federal Aviation Regulations, a class 3 medical certificate expires on the last day of the 24 month in which the medical examination was completed.
No logbooks for the aircraft were located. According to Mel Wick, an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic who had worked on the airplane, the airplane received an annual inspection on September 14, 1993. He did not know the total time of the airframe or engine. However, the airplane's engine tachometer showed a total time of 733.94 hours.
There are no weather reporting facilities near the accident site. The accident site is located near the headwaters of the Black River, at the base of a glacier. According to rescue personnel, the weather at the accident scene was sufficient to perform a rescue at night. Ceilings were estimated as better than 8000 feet and visibility better than 30 miles.
The on scene investigation, conducted the following day, showed that the ceilings were better than 8000 feet above mean sea level (msl) and the visibility was greater than 30 miles. There was no wind in the area.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane wreckage was found at geographic coordinates 62 degrees, 16.8 minutes north and 148 degrees, 06.4 minutes west at a field elevation of 5000 feet msl. The wreckage was in a valley at the headwaters of the Black River, at the base of a glacier. The valley descended away from the glacier in a magnetic direction of 026 degrees. The descent angle of the valley varied between 1 to 3 degrees.
The airplane came to rest in the eastern side of the valley. Which is approximately 1 mile wide at the face of the glacier. The airplane wreckage was in a small stream which followed the general descent direction and angle of the valley. The airplane was pointed toward 306 magnetic. Approximately 50 feet behind the airplane was a grass and sod bank, remains of a river bank, that was 45 feet higher than the surrounding valley floor.
The face of the glacier was approximately 150 feet higher than the airplane wreckage. The glacier face was covered with terminal moraine debris consisting of rocks and dirt. Examination of the face of the glacier did not reveal any impact marks, however, examination of the top edge of the face of the glacier showed a small area that contained some silver paint/metal transfer on the rocks. The marks lined up with the major impact marks located below the face of the glacier near the airplane wreckage.
An impact mark was found in the valley floor approximately 150 feet downslope from the glacier face. Red lens material and red paint smears were located in the impact mark. The wreckage path was aligned with 034 degrees magnetic. The smear mark on the top edge of the glacier face aligned with 034 degrees magnetic as well.
There were no witnesses to the accident and the passenger in the rear seat does not recall what occurred during the flight preceding the accident. The passenger only recalled departing Fire Lake.