SEA96GA129
SEA96GA129

History of Flight

On June 14, 1996, approximately 2030 mountain daylight time, N6356N, a Cessna 182R, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain while maneuvering south of Grand View, Idaho. The private pilot and his two passengers sustained minor injuries. The aircraft was operated by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and was on a public use reconnaissance mission with an Air Force mission number. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed, although the pilot had received a CAP flight release. The ELT actuated, but did not assist in locating the wreckage or survivors.

The pilot stated that he had flown toward rising terrain. After attempting a turn to the right in a drainage toward higher terrain, he realized he could not climb sufficiently to clear the terrain, so he attempted a course reversal to the left. The pilot, in his written report, stated that "during this flight I was aware of the terrain and followed normal search procedures of flying downhill. The last terrain search of the day took me to a new area and I found myself in a situation of flying into very steep terrain that was climbing faster than the capability of the aircraft. While attempting to turn out of that terrain I ran out of altitude and descended into the terrain at 6200 feet." The aircraft collided with terrain while maneuvering, and nosed over. The pilot stated he turned off the ELT and contacted air carrier air traffic with a hand-held radio and reported the accident. Rescue personnel reached the aircraft and the survivors early the following morning.

During an interview, the pilot stated that he had departed on his first leg of the flight with 35 gallons of fuel on board each of the two main wing fuel tanks. He had picked up observers at Nampa, Idaho, and Murphy, Idaho, which was his last departure point. He said they were searching the Castle Creek area at 7000 feet MSL (mean sea level) at 85-90 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed) with flaps extended 10 degrees. He said the airplane was operating perfectly at the time of the accident. He said he had turned or entered an area where he could not go straight or turn right. He started a left turn and pushed up the throttle and propeller to low pitch. The airspeed went below 60 KIAS. Prior to impact on the sloping terrain, he said he kept the nose up and the wings level. After colliding with terrain the airplane nosed over. The pilot stated that he switched off the master switch and turned off the magneto switch, but could not recall if he did that before, during, or after the ground impact.

Personnel Information

The pilot had satisfactorily completed a Civil Air Patrol pilot checkout (CAP Form 5) on May 31, 1996, demonstrating proficiency to fly Cessna 182 airplanes, and demonstrating proficiency required to be a cadet orientation pilot. He had satisfactorily demonstrated proficiency in flight at critically slow airspeeds (5 elements) and ground reference maneuvering (3 elements). On June 5, 1996, the pilot had satisfactorily completed a CAP mission pilot checkout, demonstrating competency in five elements of visual search patterns/procedures, and seven of the eight elements of mountainous terrain procedures. One element of the eight mountainous terrain procedures, canyon search procedures, received a "v" mark, rather than a "s" mark. Conversations with CAP wing personnel revealed that the "v" mark is used in lieu of the "s" for items that were covered verbally during the checkout.

Aircraft Information

The aircraft was equipped with cargo netting. A steel plate instrument panel lock was carried aboard the airplane. This security cover was normally removed for flight and stowed in the baggage compartment. The airplane was also equipped with a Horton STOL wing leading edge cuff. Empty weight was 1885.05 pounds.

Wreckage and Impact Information

The aircraft crashed in rolling mountainous terrain with scrub brush and grass vegetation with some trees, about 6200 feet MSL, at 44 degrees 44' N, 116 degrees 22' W. The area was surrounded by higher mountainous terrain and was a large bowl sloping to the north, with slope of about 15 degrees. The airplane impacted across the slope, with initial ground scars about 090 degrees. The ground scars were paced off, with 11 paces from the first evidence of contact to pieces of the right wheel fairing and a deep gouge. Total distance from the initial ground scars to the propeller spinner was 24 paces. The aircraft had nosed over, and was inverted, on a 060 degree axis from nose to tail.

The nose wheel fork was separated and located by the propeller. The propeller had large radius curling and one blade was wrapped around the left side of the engine cowling. The other propeller blade exhibited similar large radius bends and was wrapped around, but did not contact, the right side of the engine cowling. The cowling was displaced from the engine and engine mount, with about a 10 inch gap at the bottom. The bottom of the cowling and fuselage exhibited crushing and wrinkling aft to the main landing gear.

The outboard few feet of the right wing evidenced leading edge crushing and downward bending of the wing tip. The left landing gear strut remained attached, however the wheel, brake, and fairing were separated. The vertical fin and rudder exhibited tip damage. The tail cone exhibited wrinkles aft of the main cabin door and aft of the rear window on the right side of the airplane.

Survival Aspects

The pilot stated that he attempted using a hand-held radio to scan for an aircraft communicating with ATC in the general vicinity. When he found that to be unsuccessful, he was able to contact a Canadian air carrier flight on 121.5 MHz. He then communicated with a Northwest Airlines flight, which contacted Boise ATC control tower, and relayed the GPS coordinates at the scene of the accident. During the rescue operation, the accident site was overflown at 2330, and rescuers arrived about 0200 the next day.

The CAP airplane was equipped with an extensive survival kit, including first aid kit, flashlights, hand-held radio, and food and water.

During the interview of the pilot, he stated that he had not given his observers/passengers a comprehensive passenger briefing prior to takeoff. The pilot noted that, until he picked up his observers, the actual destination and reconnaissance area to be searched were ambiguous, and were not available for the pilot's briefing to the flight release officer. The pilot had stated to the flight release officer that he would be "back by dark." He stated that the observers had not applied pressure for him to fly at a specific altitude, airspeed, or route. Additionally, he stated that, while the aircraft was equipped with a cargo net, the net was not being used to retain items (including the steel plate instrument panel lock) in the baggage compartment.

Additional Data/Information

The CAP provides extensive training and drills for observers for search and rescue missions. Such training is not provided for observers used in drug surveillance missions. The mission being conducted was described as "drug reconnaissance", which is to be accomplished at minimum altitudes of 500 feet AGL (above ground level).

According the local Wing Commander, the Wing's primary mission of search and rescue is being supplanted or complemented by drug surveillance and transportation missions, which often involve the carriage of persons who are not as cognizant of aircraft operations as many CAP observers. Those missions can be performed by pilots with fewer than 500 hours flight time, and without instrument ratings. Minimum flight time experience to qualify for a mission pilot is 200 hours. The Wing Commander noted that most of the missions under this type of operation involve transport of law officers, rather than drug reconnaissance.

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