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On March 30, 1995, at 1130 central standard time, a Cessna 177RG, N35917, was destroyed while maneuvering near Dalhart, Texas. The non-instrument rated private pilot was fatally injured. No flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed.
Records found in the airplane indicated the pilot had originally departed from North Carolina and was en route to Albuquerque, New Mexico. After refueling in Guymon, Oklahoma, at 1636 on March 29, 1995, he flew into the Dalhart Municipal Airport (DHT) arriving about 1710. According to the fixed base operator, the pilot had planned to continue on to Albuquerque that evening; however, after speaking with other pilots who were delaying their departures due to reported icing conditions, decided to remain overnight at Dalhart. He told an employee of the fixed base operator that he was "worried about his job" and was expected to report for work at midnight that evening. After calling his place of work, the pilot remarked to the employee that "the lady he was talking to hung up on him." He then spent the night sleeping on a couch in the lounge of the terminal building.
About 1000 on the day of the accident, the pilot conversed with another pilot who had driven to the airport and remarked that "he needed to get to Albuquerque and may try and follow the highway." The other pilot advised him that he had just driven through snow on his way into town from the west. According to the fixed base operator, the airplane departed approximately 1015 and, about 1115, the pilot called Dalhart Unicom and reported he was circling the Dalhart VOR, but could not find the airport. The operator informed the pilot that weather at the airport was "1/4 mile or less visibility with snow" and suggested the pilot land on a road near the VOR. At the pilot's request, the operator provided a heading and distance from the VOR to the airport, and the pilot stated that he was headed for the airport. During the last transmission heard by the operator, the pilot reported seeing a runway with an "X" on it. As shown on the attached diagram, the airport has a closed runway marked with "X"s.
An officer on duty at the state prison located adjacent to the airport observed the airplane "appear out of the snowstorm" and make "a quick turn to the right and then back to the left and then it appeared to level out." After momentarily losing sight of the airplane behind buildings, he next observed it "in a sharp left bank with an extreme nose down angle." The officer "heard the sound of the engine and propeller speed up" as the airplane continued to descend until it impacted the ground and "burst into flames." The impact site was located directly behind the prison warden's residence. The warden heard the sound of an aircraft engine "racing at a high pitch" followed by the sound of an impact. He observed that at the time of the accident "it was snowing very hard and visibility was extremely poor."
The Federal Aviation Administration has no record of the pilot having an instrument rating. The pilot's personal logbooks were not located during the investigation.
A review of the maintenance records revealed no discrepancies that would have affected the airworthiness of the airplane.
There is no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing from any flight service station on either March 29 or 30, 1995. A copy of the sheet listing the hourly surface weather observations taken at Dalhart on March 30, 1995 for the period from 0050 to 2050 is attached to this report. During the early morning, ceilings from 300 to 400 feet overcast with visibilities of 2.5 to 6 miles in light rain and fog were reported. Conditions improved at 1028 to an estimated ceiling of 500 feet broken, 1000 feet overcast with 15 miles visibility in light rain. By 1113, the weather had deteriorated to an indefinite ceiling of 400 feet with 1/2 mile visibility in wet snow and fog.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located approximately 1 mile southwest of the airport in a wheat field. The first evidence of ground impact was a scar containing the propeller, spinner, and fragments of windshield plexiglass. The propeller separated at the crankshaft flange and was buried about 6 inches in the ground. The main wreckage was located 33 feet from the first ground scar on a magnetic heading of 175 degrees. Both wing leading edges were crushed aft along the span. Control continuity was confirmed from the flight control surfaces to the cockpit controls. Examination of the engine did not reveal evidence of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies. All cockpit instrumentation was destroyed by the post-impact fire.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed by Sparks Veasey, M.D., Deputy Medical Examiner of Lubbock County, Lubbock, Texas. Toxicological findings were negative.
The wreckage was released to the estate of the owner.