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On June 20, 1996, at 1435 hours mountain standard time, a Cessna 182RG, N6309T, was destroyed during landing at Page, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight and a VFR flight plan was filed. The pilot received minor injuries. The flight originated at Springerville, Arizona, about 1345 on the day of the accident.
The pilot contacted the Prescott Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) by telephone for a preflight weather briefing. He made a second call for an update and filed a VFR flight plan. He opened the flight plan after takeoff. An AIRMET was provided for moderate turbulence below 15,000 feet along his route of flight. He was provided an area forecast of 10,000 to 12,000 feet scattered clouds with possible thunderstorms and rainshowers after 1100, and gusty surface winds southwesterly 15 to 25 knots. Also at the update, the pilot was given the temperature for Page of 96 degrees Fahrenheit, with an advisory for density altitude. The winds aloft forecast for 12,500 feet was 240 degrees at 10 to 13 knots with stronger winds forecasted near Page at 40 knots.
According to the pilot, the Page unicom operator was reporting winds out of the west at 15 knots gusting to 20 knots, favoring runway 15. He stated that an aircraft had departed from runway 33 prior to his attempt to land. The pilot stated that during approach to runway 15, an aircraft taking off from runway 33 reported winds possibly favoring that runway. He reported that the Page unicom was reporting winds more consistent with a westerly crosswind component. The pilot reported that the approach was relatively uneventful until the aircraft was about 150 feet above and 0.1 mile past the approach end of runway 15. At this point, severe turbulence with both up and downdrafts and increased gusts were encountered, making it impossible to maintain control. A go-around was announced and initiated. Flaps were retracted to 10 degrees from 20 degrees and full power was added.
According to the airport manager's report, an aircraft that departed runway 33 advised the landing pilot that the wind was favoring runway 33. The unicom operator advised the pilot of the crosswinds that were 10 knots with gusts to 15 knots. According to the manager, the pilot responded "I can handle it." The unicom operation is provided by a fixed-base operator on the field, and provides weather advisories only. They are not certified weather observers, nor is the equipment certified.
The Page Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) reported a special observation at 1428: temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 40 degrees Fahrenheit; wind direction was missing, velocity was 11 knots with peak gusts at 25 knots; the altimeter was 29.92 inHg.
According to the airport manager, the ASOS system has been on a trial status and not certified for about a year. At the time of the initial notification to the Safety Board and the FAA, the airport manager reported a squall line with high winds and dust hit the airport about the time of the accident aircraft's arrival. The wind direction and speed became very unpredictable.
According to witnesses, the airplane never actually landed, but at 15 to 20 feet above the ground the right wing started to rise. As the pilot applied power, the tail went down and the wings started to waver back and forth. Subsequently, the left wing contacted the ground followed by the nose gear as the airplane cartwheeled. The airplane came to rest about 50 feet east of runway 15. A postaccident fire erupted and consumed the airframe.
According to the Cessna Pilot Operator Handbook (POH), the maximum demonstrated crosswind component during aircraft certification is 18 knots. The POH states that during a balked landing/go-around the flaps are to be retracted to 20 degrees. It further states to use minimum flaps for the runway length in crosswind landings.