ANC97LA048
ANC97LA048

On April 7, 1997, about 1506 Alaska daylight time, a wheel equipped Piper PA-31 airplane, N218CS, owned and operated by Cape Smythe Air Service, received substantial damage while landing at the Stebbins Airport, Stebbins, Alaska. None of the six passengers aboard, or the airline transport certificated pilot, reported any injuries. The 14 CFR Part 135 scheduled commuter flight, Flight 365, departed Nome, Alaska, about 1419, en route to Stebbins. A visual flight rules flight plan was in effect. The reported weather at Stebbins was characterized as instrument meteorological conditions at the time of the accident.

According to witness reports, fog obscured the gravel and snow covered airstrip. The airplane was observed at a low altitude, close to the threshold of runway 05. It banked hard to the left, and right, and then collided with terrain near the runway threshold. The airplane continued down the runway a short distance, then veered off the left side of the runway and struck a snow berm.

At the time of the accident, a weather observer at Stebbins estimated the visibility to be 3/8 of a mile.

During a telephone conversation with the NTSB investigator-in-charge on April 17, the pilot related as he approached Stebbins, he was given a weather observation from a weather observer at Stebbins that indicated the prevailing visibility was about 1/4 mile in fog and mist. He said that was later amended to 3/8 of a mile. About seven miles from Stebbins, he said he was able to see a portion of the runway, the approach end of runway 05. The reminder of the runway and village was shrouded in fog. As he continued his approach to Stebbins, and entered a left base for runway 05, he said he realized he was in too close to the runway, performed a tight "S" turn to gain a little distance from the runway, reduced power on the turbine engines to idle, and turned final approach. During final approach, he said he was too low and too slow. He heard the stall warning horn, and quickly added full power to go-around. The airplane rolled hard to the right at the application of power, and the right wing hit the ground.

In his written report to the NTSB, under the section titled: "Recommendation (how could this accident been prevented)", the pilot wrote: "Should have made a decision sooner, to go-around and get lined up with the runway." The pilot also estimated the visibility in the vicinity of the airport as 1.5 miles.

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