SEA95LA033
SEA95LA033

On December 27, 1994, approximately 2115 mountain standard time (MST), a Cessna 182, N9107X, impacted the terrain during a VFR descent into Murphy Airport, Murphy, Idaho. The private pilot and his passenger received serious injuries, and the aircraft was destroyed by fire. The aerial observation flight, which was being conducted by the Owyhee County Sheriff, departed Murphy Airport about 2030 MST, and was returning to the airport in visual meteorological conditions. No flight plan had been filed, and there was no report of an ELT activation.

According to the Sheriff's office, the pilot and his aerial observer were returning to the airport after participating in a search for a stolen vehicle. The pilot said that because it was a dark night, he had no outside visual reference information except the lights at the municipal building near the Murphy Airport. He said that as he descended toward Murphy Airport from the northeast, he used a loran-based altitude/distance step- down procedure to remain clear of the terrain. Just after the pilot looked inside the aircraft "...to set a descent to land," his passenger realized that the lights at Murphy were no longer visible. The passenger then yelled at the pilot, and both of them pulled back on the yoke. About one second later, the aircraft impacted a ridge.

The pilot stated that he had successfully used the same descent profile many times before while descending into Murphy. He said that on this flight the only thing unusual was the dark night and an approximately 40 knot headwind the aircraft was descending into. The headwind was confirmed by the 35 to 40 knot difference between the aircraft's airspeed indicator and the ground speed indicated by the loran.

The pilot also stated that the altimeter may have become stuck during the descent, but he did not know for sure if that had happened.

He also said that except for a brief moment to check for precipitation, he did not use the landing light during the descent.

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