On March 2, 1996, about 1330 Alaska standard time, a wheel equipped Piper PA-32-301, N8374T, collided with terrain about 15 miles west of Nome, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) scheduled domestic commuter flight under Title 14 CFR Part 135 when the accident occurred. The airplane, operated as flight number 3321 by Grant Aviation Inc., Emmonak, Alaska, sustained substantial damage. The certificated commercial pilot was not injured. The sole passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. VFR company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated from Teller, Alaska, at 1300.

On March 2, 1996, about 2110, in a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board, Investigator-in-Charge (IIC), the pilot reported that after departure from Teller, he encountered moderate turbulence and followed the coast in a southeastern direction until turning eastbound toward Nome. He climbed to 2,500 feet mean sea level (MSL) to cross an area of low hills located to the west of Nome. The hills varied from 1,000 to 1,500 feet msl. The pilot indicated that there were strong winds from the northeast. As he was crossing the hills, the airplane began losing altitude.

The pilot indicated that he thought the engine was losing power and pushed the throttle, propeller control, and mixture control full forward. The engine did not quit, run rough or sputter. The pilot reported that he activated the engine boost pump but did not pull the alternate air source. The airplane continued to lose altitude and the pilot slowed to about 75 knots before touching down on snow covered terrain. The airplane received damage to the landing gear, fuselage, and wings. The operator submitted a pilot/operator report (NTSB form 6120.1/2) and indicated on the form that the airplane did not experience a mechanical malfunction.

On March 8, 1996, about 0918, in a telephone interview with the passenger, he reported to the IIC that he boarded the airplane in Brevig Mission, Alaska, after missing an earlier flight. The flight proceeded to Teller without incident. After departure from Teller, the flight proceeded west and then south over sea ice. The passenger described the weather as dense, white-out conditions with limited downward visibility. He recalled occasionally seeing sea ice and brush and also observed Sledge Island (8 miles southwest of the accident site). The forward visibility was described as..."dirty, cloudy, whiteness."

The passenger indicated that his first indication that the airplane had crashed was when the airplane suddenly stopped and he sustained a cut on his forehead. He recalled the pilot commenting..."If only he'd been 10 feet higher...we'd have made it and we'd be drinking coffee in Nome now." The pilot and passenger were rescued by search personnel from Nome about 1700.

At 1254, the weather conditions at Nome were reported, in part: Sky conditions and ceiling, measured 1,300 feet broken, 2,900 feet overcast; visibility, 10 miles in light snow; temperature, 32 degrees F; dew point, 29 degrees F; wind, 120 degrees at 12 knots; altimeter, 30.38 inHg.

At 1351, the weather conditions at Nome were reported, in part: Sky conditions and ceiling, measured 1,300 feet broken, 1,800 feet broken, 3,200 feet broken, 4,000 feet overcast; visibility, 10 miles; temperature, 33 degrees F; dew point, 29 degrees F; wind, 110 degrees at 12 knots; altimeter, 30.39 inHg; remarks, snow showers, west through northwest.

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