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At an estimated time and date of September 12, 1996, about 1800 Alaska daylight time, a wheel equipped Champion 7EC, N9061B, collided with remote mountainous terrain about 21 miles east of May Creek, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight when the accident occurred. The airplane, registered to and operated by the pilot was destroyed. The certificated private pilot and the sole passenger received fatal injuries.
The pilot departed Valdez, Alaska, on September 12, 1996, at 0800 for a flight to Chitina, Alaska, where the passenger embarked for a hunting trip with the pilot. The planned return from the trip was September 15, 1996, with a tentative hunting area along the Chitina River and Barnard Glacier in the Wrangell - St. Elias National Preserve. Family representatives reported the passenger drove to Chitina with extra fuel for the airplane. During the search for the airplane, the passenger's vehicle was located at the Chitina Airport. Several gallons of the extra fuel were used from the initial supply.
The flight did not return and was reported overdue to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on September 16, 1996. An alert notice (ALNOT) was issued at 2325. Search airplanes did not locate any evidence of a hunting camp established by the accident airplane's occupants. The wreckage was located by search aircraft at 5,300 feet mean sea level on September 17, 1996, about 1230. Examination of the baggage contents revealed unused food supplies and clean clothing neatly packed in two backpacks.
The accident is presumed to have occurred during the hours of daylight. The airplane was located at latitude 61 degrees, 10.44 minutes north and longitude 142 degrees, 04.09 minutes west.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The most recent third-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on October 8, 1993, and contained no limitations. A third-class medical certificate expires at the end of the 24th month after the month of the date of examination shown on the certificate.
The pilot's medical certificate was temporarily denied in 1991. He reported on his application for medical certificate of November 9, 1990, having episodes of migraine headaches. After a medical review, the pilot's medical certificate was restored in May, 1991, as valid until its normal date of expiration. On subsequent medical applications of February 12, 1992, and October 8, 1993, the pilot did not report any headaches. The medical examiner that issued his medical certificates did not indicate any findings of significant medical history or abnormal physical findings on either application.
According to the pilots logbook, his total aeronautical experience consisted of about 336.6 hours. In the preceding 90 and 30 days prior to the accident, the logbook listed a total of 23.5 and 11.5 hours respectively.
Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed from May 11, 1994, to April 8, 1995, the pilot logged 33.6 hours of flight time in the accident airplane. From June 14, 1995, to April 28, 1996, the pilot logged 15.3 hours of flight time in the accident airplane. From June 7, 1996, to September 1, 1996, the pilot logged 23.5 hours of flight time in the accident airplane. The pilot's last biennial flight review was recorded in his logbook on December 26, 1991.
Examination of the airplane wreckage revealed the recording hour meter, contained in the engine RPM gauge, indicated 1414.54. Review of the airplane engine and airframe logbooks revealed the most recent annual inspection of the engine and airframe was accomplished on June 6, 1996. At that time, the hour meter was 1,391.1 and the logbook indicated the total time in service was 1,776.6 hours. The difference, 23.44 hours, was accrued from the annual inspection to the accident, bringing the airplane's total time to 1,800.04 hours. In the same time period, the pilot recorded 23.5 hours of flight time in the accident airplane.
The previous annual inspection of the airplane was conducted on May 1, 1994. At that time the hour meter was 1,306.2 and the logbook indicated the total time in service was 1,691.7 hours. At the time of the accident, the engine had accrued 492.2 hours since being overhauled.
The airframe logbook also contained a notation dated June 6, 1996, that documented a repair to the left wing. The logbook entry noted the left wing front and rear spar butt caps were repaired in accordance with an FAA Form 337 (Major Repair and Alteration). A copy of the 337 form was reviewed. It was dated May 21, 1996. The back of the 337 detailed a repair for shrinkage of cracks in the spar butt areas and detailed several type written procedures. Added to the list of procedures was a hand written entry that stated..."F. This repair was done according to previous 337 dated 04/06/93". A copy of the previous 337 form of 4/6/93 was not located.
The NTSB IIC performed an estimated weight and balance calculation for the accident airplane. The maximum gross weight of the airplane is 1,450 pounds. Utilizing weight and balance information contained in the airplane records, and information obtained from the Alaska State Troopers, the following calculation was performed.
Empty weight 946.2 pounds arm 13.63 moment 12896.71 Pilot weight 186 12 2232.0 Passenger weight 185 42 7770.0 Oil 9 -35 -26.0 Baggage 69 64 4416.0 2 Rifles 30 24 720.0
The total weight of the above listed items is 1,425.2 pounds, 24.8 pounds below maximum gross weight, without the addition of any fuel weight calculation. An additional 24.8 pounds of fuel (4.13 gallons) would bring the total weight to the maximum gross weight. The actual amount of fuel on board the airplane at the time of the accident is unknown. A center of gravity (CG) calculation using 1,425.2 pounds (without fuel) at a moment of 28008.71, calculates to a center of gravity of 19.65 inches. The center of gravity limits for the airplane are from 10.2 to 19.2 inches. The addition of fuel would further displace the center of gravity rearward.
The closest official weather observation station is McCarthy, Alaska, which is located 28 nautical miles west of the accident site. On September 12, 1996, at 1453, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) was reporting in part: Wind, calm; visibility, 25 statute miles; sky condition and ceiling, 7,000 feet broken, 10,000 feet broken; temperature, 57 degrees F; dew point, 45 degrees F; altimeter, 29.37 inHg.
At 1647, a METAR was reporting in part: Wind, 270 degrees (true) at 4 knots; visibility, 25 statute miles; sky condition and ceiling, 7,000 feet broken, 10,000 feet broken; temperature, 55 degrees F; dew point, 42 degrees F; altimeter, 29.37 inHg.
At 1845, a METAR was reporting in part: Wind, 350 degrees (true) at 3 knots; visibility, 25 statute miles; sky condition and ceiling, 7,000 feet broken, 10,000 feet overcast; temperature, 53 degrees F; dew point, 46 degrees F; altimeter, 29.36 inHg.
At 2047, a METAR was reporting in part: Wind, calm; visibility, 25 statute miles; sky condition and ceiling, 7,000 feet broken, 10,000 feet overcast; temperature, 46 degrees F; dew point, 43 degrees F; altimeter, 29.35 inHg.
Search personnel reported during the active search phase, the weather conditions consisted of low clouds, and rain showers. Snow was covering the upper elevations of the mountains in the search area.
There were no reports of any communications received from the airplane.
Wreckage and Impact Information
The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) examined the airplane wreckage at the accident site on September 18, 1996. A path of wreckage debris and ground scars from the initial point of ground contact to the wreckage point of rest was observed on a magnetic heading of 235 degrees. The area was tundra covered on an average of 20 degree sloping mountainous terrain. The wreckage was located just below the snow line. During the on-scene investigation, intermittent snow showers were present in the area which dictated a limited time on-scene. (All heading/bearings noted in this report are oriented toward magnetic north.)
All of the airplane's major components were found at the main wreckage area. The first observed point of ground contact was a small, round area of soil disruption, connected to a narrow, straight line of soil disruption in the tundra along the wreckage path. Small chips of paint, wing inspection plates, and Plexiglas fragments were also found along the wreckage path. About 40 feet downslope from the first observed point of impact was a large round crater in the tundra. The left main landing gear and wheel, was separated from its fuselage attach points, and located at the edge of the crate. Fragments of Plexiglas were scattered at the downslope edge of the crater. About 25 feet downslope from the crater was the main fuselage point of rest.
The main fuselage came to rest inverted with the nose of the airplane pointed upslope toward the initial point of impact. The right main landing gear remained attached to the fuselage. The fabric covering the bottom of the fuselage was torn away, exposing the fuselage tubing. Flight control system cable continuity was established from the control stick torque tubes to the tail.
The right wing was broken at its inboard fuselage attach point and was folded 180 degrees under the fuselage. Both wings were perpendicular to the main fuselage and pointed downslope in a slight "V" orientation. The right wing was lying slightly over the left wing with the bottom surfaces of each wing facing upward.
Both wing lift struts remained attached to their respective wing attach points and both were bent about mid-span. The outboard left wingtip separated from the wing and was located to the left of the tail assembly. The left wing aileron was attached to the wing and was bent mid-span and buckled. The outboard end of the aileron was shattered. The right wing aileron was attached to the wing, but the inboard attach fitting was fractured. Due to impact damage, continuity of the flight control cables could not be established from the control stick to the ailerons.
The tail assembly was twisted about 90 degrees toward right (downslope) of the inverted, longitudinal axis of the fuselage, at the forward edge of the horizontal stabilizer. The leading of the stabilizer was facing upward. The flight control surfaces of the tail remained connected to their respective attach points. Examination of rear fuselage mounted navigation light bulb revealed the filament was unbroken and tightly coiled.
The engine remained attached to the fuselage and was bent to the right of the longitudinal axis of the airplane. The engine cowling from the forward end to the firewall was crushed upward against the bottom of the engine. Fragments of soil and tundra were embedded in the folds of the cowling.
The propeller assembly remained connected to the engine crankshaft. One propeller blade was bent aft about 15 degrees. The outboard end of the blade was fractured about 6 inches inboard from the tip. From about 10 inches outboard from the hub to the fracture, the bladed exhibited leading edge gouging and chordwise scratching. The second blade exhibited "S" bending, torsional twisting, and extensive leading edge gouging. The blade tip was fractured about 6 inches inboard from the tip. Numerous gouges were noted on the chambered side of the blade.
Medical and Pathological Information
A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted under the authority of the Alaska State Medical Examiner, 5700 E. Tudor, Anchorage, Alaska, on September 19, 1996.
Search and Rescue
Search personnel began receiving intermittent emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signals in the area of the accident on September 14, 1996, at 2021 but the signals could not be refined to a specific location by subsequent satellite passes. On September 17, 1996, a weak ELT signal was detected by a search airplane and the wreckage site was pinpointed.
The Safety Board did not take custody of the wreckage. No parts or components were retained by the Safety Board.