On December 12, 1994, about 1130 Alaska standard time, a wheel/ski equipped Cessna model 185 airplane, N4552F, operated by Woods Air Service, Inc. collided with terrain during takeoff from runway 24 at Takotna, Alaska. The commercial certificated pilot received minor injuries, one passenger received serious injuries, and the remaining passenger was not injured. The airplane was destroyed by the impact with the terrain and a postcrash fire. The 14 CFR Part 135 on-demand flight was en route to Nikolai, Alaska when the accident occurred. VFR conditions reportedly prevailed in the area at the time of the mishap and a round robin flight plan from McGrath, Alaska was on file with the Kenai Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) with intermediate stops at Takotna, Nikolai and Telida, Alaska. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On the afternoon of December 13, 1994, the NTSB investigator-in-charge conducted a telephone interview with the pilot of N4552F. The pilot said that he departed McGrath at approximately 0942 and performed a wheel landing on runway 060 at Takotna about 15 minutes later and parked the airplane on the designated ramp area. He said that with the large amount of snow the area had received this year, he was mindful of the snow berms along the sides and the ends of the runways at the airports in the area but did not consciously pay any attention to the snow berm as he flew over the approach end of runway 060. The four to five inches of fresh unpacked snow on the ground prevented him from turning the airplane under power in the ramp area. He shut the airplane down and physically lifted the tail of the airplane and turned it toward the runway. He boarded two passengers and there was also about 170 pounds of cargo on board the plane, which included the survival gear. He lined the airplane up between the left and right side cones at the end of runway 24. Due to the flat light condition, it was difficult to distinguish the runway boundaries with the surrounding terrain. He began the wheel takeoff from the ramp area, which he said meant that there was about 300 feet of runway that he did not use. The takeoff was performed with two notches of flap, and the wind was calm. He experienced no problems with the airplane during the takeoff. He felt the airplane became airborne from one half to two thirds down the runway and that the plane was in a climbing attitude when it collided with what he believed to be a snow berm just beyond the end of the runway. The plane pitched forward and descended into trees about 1,000 feet beyond the end of the runway. Shortly after the aircraft came to a stop in a nose down tail high attitude against the ground, the top of the plane caught fire. Based upon his post accident observation of the snow berm at the end of runway 24, he estimated the height of the berm to be from three to four feet.
Witnesses at the airport reported that at the time of the accident, the conspicuity between the runway and the surrounding terrain was poor due to the flat light condition and that the runway had four to six inches of new unpacked snow. Airport maintenance personnel reported that the runway was last plowed on December 11, 1994, and that the snow berms on either end of the runway on the day of the accident were about two feet high.