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On January 14, 1995, at 0440 hours Pacific standard time (pst), a Cessna 172N, N1535E, operated by Coastal Airways, Inc., and being flown by a certificated airline transport rated pilot, was destroyed during a collision with trees and terrain while attempting to return to the Sequim Airport, Sequim, Washington. The crash site was two nautical miles east of Blyn, Washington. The pilot and two of the three passengers were fatally injured. A fourth occupant sustained serious injuries. Variable bright night meteorological conditions existed at the time and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was a non-scheduled passenger trip from Sequim to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC), was to have been operated under 14CFR135, and was carrying the passengers to SEATAC where they were continuing on to Hawaii for a vacation. The surviving passenger's husband reported observing the pilot's activities following his arrival at 0400 hours at the Sequim airport. He described the pilot as "awake and very alert" and also reported that the pilot "sized up the passengers and their luggage" and "went to get the smaller plane." The luggage was stowed, and then the passengers were boarded and briefed. The witness reported that the pilot occupied the front-left seat and that after the passengers were briefed the engine was started and the aircraft was taxied to the west end of the runway and departed to the east. The witness reported that he "found the pilot to be very much in charge of his plane, his passengers and their belongings" and that "he didn't joke around about anything" (refer to attached witness statement). A radar track of the aircraft was identified and followed back in time to the point when its transponder was switched from code 1200 to code 0301 (0436:22), and ultimately back to the aircraft's first target received (0432:00). This first target places the aircraft over water one nautical mile north of Port Williams at 1,800 feet above mean sea level (MSL) tracking generally east and in a gradual climbing right turn (refer to CHART I). The radar track showed the aircraft making landfall over Rocky Point at 0434:35 at an altitude of 2,600 feet MSL. The aircraft then tracked generally southbound and at 00435:58 N1535E contacted Seattle Approach (TRACON) reporting "about thirty five northwest of the VOR inbound for landing SEATAC ah with alpha request a shoreline arrival" (refer to CHART I & CHART III). At 0436:08 Seattle Approach requested that N1535E "squawk" 0301 and the new transponder code was noted at 0436:10. At 0436:19 N1535E acknowledged the new altimeter setting. The aircraft's radar targets showed a continuing southbound track toward upsloping terrain while maintaining an altitude of 2,500 feet MSL. At 0437:57 the aircraft's mode C altitude was 2,400 feet MSL, dropping to 2,300 feet MSL at 0438:33, and then 2,200 feet MSL at 0438:45. The altitude of all the remaining targets remained at 2,200 feet MSL until the last recorded target at 0440:08. The radar target at 0438:45 placed the aircraft on a southbound track within several hundred feet of the crest of a hill whose ground elevation was 2,018 feet MSL (refer to CHART II). The terrain below the aircraft at that time was heavily forested with high conifer trees. The remaining radar targets showed the aircraft executing a left (counter-clockwise) turn with a diameter of approximately 4,000 feet. This turn continued until the last radar target (0440:08) was very nearly superimposed over the original ground track at 0438:33. At 0439:30 N1535E radioed Seattle Approach declaring "Mayday Mayday ah I've got an emergency here sir I ah need vectors for ah Sequim valley airport or similar I've had a it looks like ah some kind of structural failure here." This transmission was initiated approximately 45 seconds after the aircraft passed over the previously described hill. At 0439:58 N1535E responded to an ident request with "There's and ident three five echo and I need a ah a climb for a higher altitude please do you have a radar fix on me?" And, at 0440:06 Seattle Approach reported "radar contact at 45 miles northwest of Seattle." No further communications with the aircraft occurred (refer to CHARTS I, II & III, ATTACHMENT RD-1, and Communications transcript CT-I). The surviving passenger was interviewed by an FAA inspector on January 19th. She stated that "we went over the water," that she and her mother "were trying to figure out where we were at the time" and that she remembered "seeing a bridge and town behind and to the right of me." She continued by stating that "suddenly we felt the aircraft being jerked down from turbulence. The pilot was working hard to control the airplane. There was almost no way he could control the aircraft. The weather at that point seemed to be thick and gray." She stated further that "then, approximately one minute later, there was a loud pop or snap, and I could feel the pressure change in the cabin and the thick smell of pine. I may have heard a slap-slap-slap" (refer to transcribed passenger statement from FAA Inspector James C. Dodge).
The pilot in command held an airline transport pilot certificate and was qualified to act as pilot in command in both the operator's Cessna 402 and 172 aircraft. The front right seat passenger held a private pilot certificate with single engine land rating only. Additionally, his third class medical had expired.
The last known fueling of the aircraft was on January 11th at which time 14 gallons of 100 low lead was added. The operator reported that this resulted in 18 gallons of fuel available at the time of the aircraft's departure. The weights of the pilot, passengers, their baggage, clothing and fuel yielded a gross takeoff weight of 2,325 pounds (25 pounds over maximum takeoff weight) and a moment of 107.2 pound-inches/1000 (placing the center of gravity (CG) slightly outside the CG envelope for the aircraft's takeoff weight). Refer to ATTACHMENT W&B-I.
The surviving passenger and her husband (witness) described the weather at the Sequim airport as clear and calm. The husband reported the night as bright moonlight and reported "beyond Sequim to the east about 10 to 15 miles from (the) airport I could see a wall of clouds" and that the clouds "reached from north to south as much as I could see." He also stated that several minutes after the departure and to the east of Sequim he encountered cloudy and windy conditions (refer to witness statement). The passenger reported that just before the accident "the weather was thick and gray" (refer to transcribed passenger statement). The following aviation surface weather observations were reported for locations around the accident site as follows:
Bellingham (BLI): 0450 hours estimated 12,000 foot overcast 15 miles visibility in light rain winds calm
Port Angeles (CLM): 0450 hours indefinite 200 foot obscuration 1/2 mile in light rain and fog winds calm
Navy Whidbey Island (NUW): 0455 hours 2,000 foot scattered, estimated 4,000 foot broken, 5,000 foot overcast viability 7 miles in light rain wind 090 (mag) at 7 knots
Bremerton (PWT): 0454 hours AWOS measured 4,600 foot overcast visibility 10 miles wind 050 (mag) at 4 knots
Seattle (SEA): 0450 hours 4,900 foot scattered, measured 7,500 foot broken, 10,000 foot overcast visibility 10 miles wind 090 (mag) at 6 knots
Quillayute (UIL): 0450 hours 1,500 foot scattered, measured 3,500 foot overcast visibility 3 miles in rain and fog wind 040 (mag) at 5 knots
Victoria (YYJ): 0400 hours 400 foot scattered, measured 3,100 foot broken, 12,000 foot overcast, visibility 10 miles wind 350 (mag) at 2 knots
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The ground impact site of the main fuselage was established by GPS as 48 degrees 00.78 minutes north latitude, 122 degrees 57.14 minutes west longitude, at an elevation of approximately 1950 feet MSL. The site was located approximately 1000 feet northwest of the crest of a 2018 foot MSL hill (refer to CHART II & DIAGRAM I). The terrain at and around the site was characteristic of moderately sloped, heavily wooded forest. The trees were conifers with estimated heights of 100 feet above ground or more. The wreckage was observed to be distributed along an approximate 205 degree magnetic bearing. Small sections of severed tree branches were observed beginning at the extreme north end of the track. The left wing from the tip inboard to a point approximately midway between the strut attach point and the root was observed lying on the ground approximately 93 feet south of the first cut branches. The left wing section, including its aileron, most of the flap and the wingtip cap with its red navigation lens was observed lying inverted. A significant indentation measuring more than 18 inches in diameter was observed along the leading edge of the left wing and just outboard of the separation line with the inboard portion of the left wing (refer to photographs 1/2). The previously mentioned severed tree branches were examined and found to display cut ends. The cut ends were relatively clean with smooth penetrations through each end of each severed branch. The branches were found to be uniform in length measuring from 21 to 23 inches (refer to photographs 3/4). The right wingtip cap was observed in a conifer tree located approximately 50 feet south of the previously described left wing section. The remainder of the aircraft (fuselage and empennage, engine, right wing, and inboard left wing section) was observed inverted and up against several large conifers. The vertical stabilizer was observed folded around a tree trunk and significant scarring was observed along the lower, north faces of several of the trees at the ground impact site (refer to photographs 5 through 8). The left wing section was moved to the site of the fuselage, placed in an upright, near level attitude, and examined. A smaller, 2 inch diameter, hemispherical impression was noted superimposed beneath the previously described large indention (refer to photographs 9/10). The vertical axis of this smaller indention was observed to be nearly parallel to the aircraft's vertical axis (refer to photographs 11/12). Additionally, a similar, 2 inch diameter, hemispherical impression was noted on the leading edge of the right horizontal stabilizer (refer to photograph 13). The vertical axis of this indention was observed to be inclined forward (nose up pitch) and right (left wing down) (refer to photographs 14/15). The engine and its attached propeller was observed a short distance from the fuselage. The propeller displayed overall aftward bending deformation toward the tips with "S" curve bending. Chordwise scratching was noted on the blade (refer to photograph 16).
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Post mortem examination of both the pilot and front right seat passenger was conducted by Daniel Selove, M.D., on January 16, 1995, at Drennen-Ford Funeral Home, Port Angeles, Washington. Toxicological evaluation of samples from both the pilot and front right seat passenger was completed by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory. The evaluation revealed the following for the pilot: 0.003 ug/ml Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in blood 0.038 ug/ml Tetrahydrocannabinol Carboxylic Acid (Marihuana) detected in urine. All other test results for (pilot and passenger) were negative (refer to attached Toxicology reports).
On site examination of the wreckage was conducted on January 15, 1995. The wreckage was verbally released to Mr. Tracy Barrus (Barrus & Stiger) at the conclusion of the on site examination. Written wreckage release was executed on January 17th (refer to NTSB Form 6120.15). The Pilot Operating Handbook and Coastal Airways Operations Manual were returned to Mr. Barrus via certified mail on September 8, 1995.