SEA97LA059
SEA97LA059

On February 6, 1997, approximately 1630 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172N, N5618J, collided with trees about 25 miles northwest of Madras, Oregon. The private pilot and one of his passengers received serious injuries, one passenger received minor injuries, and the aircraft sustained substantial damage. The personal pleasure flight, which departed Klamath Falls, Oregon about two hours and twenty minutes earlier, was en route to The Dalles, Oregon. The flight, which was intended to be conducted entirely under visual flight rules, was in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed, and the ELT, which was activated by the impact, was the primary means of locating the wreckage.

According to the pilot, he had been flying in visual meteorological conditions while en route to The Dalles, but he encountered an area of low-level clouds shortly after passing Madras, Oregon. He said that it appeared that the clouds stretched "many miles ahead," so he elected to attempt to fly under them. At first, the ceiling was about 3,000 feet above the ground level(AGL), but as he continued on toward The Dalles, the ceiling began to lower. While flying through a narrow canyon under the lowering ceiling, the pilot entered an area of low clouds and fog, and elected to reverse course. While making the course reversal, the pilot inadvertently entered IMC and immediately started to climb. While attempting to climb out of the IMC, the pilot saw an area of relatively open terrain through an opening in the clouds, and decided he should make a "controlled" crash landing on that terrain. While maneuvering toward the spot he had elected to crash land on, the aircraft impacted trees, and its left wing separated from the fuselage.

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