On April 26, 1997, approximately 1230 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 152, N152TM, experienced a gear collapse during the landing roll at Ilwaco Landing Strip, Ilwaco, Washington. The student pilot, who was the sole occupant, was not injured, but the aircraft sustained substantial damage. The FAR Part 91 solo cross-country instructional flight, which departed Portland-Hillsboro Airport about 30 minutes earlier, had been en route to Paine Field, Everett, Washington, prior to the pilot's decision to make a precautionary landing at Ilwaco. The pilot, who had filed a VFR flight plan, was operating in instrument meteorological conditions at the time of the accident. The ELT, which was activated by the crash, was turned off at the scene.

According to the pilot, he was on the return leg of a solo cross-country at the time of the accident. He had flown from Everett, Washington, to Hillsboro, Oregon earlier in the day, and had then flown to Astoria, Oregon, for a pre-planned touch-and-go. He had completed the touch-and-go at Astoria, and was on his way back to Everett, Washington, when he ran into rapidly deteriorating weather, rain, and low clouds forming along his route. He then decided to try to return to Astoria, but when he got back to the vicinity of the airport, he could not see the runway because it was covered by a low cloud layer that had moved in from the ocean. He therefore started to look for another nearby place to land, and when he happened to overfly the Ilwaco Landing Strip, he elected to land there. As the pilot came down final in strong crosswinds, rain and fog, he had a hard time seeing the runway, and he didn't touch down until he had passed the midpoint of the 2,000 foot runway. He attempted to stop on the remaining runway, but he was unable to do so, and the aircraft skidded off the departure end. After the aircraft departed the runway, the nose gear sank into soft terrain and was torn from the aircraft.

Prior to his departure from Paine field, the student pilot called the Seattle Automated Flight Service Station and received a standard briefing. During that briefing he was advised that there was a cold front off the coast, and that "...we're getting a moist southerly flow along the front that is forecast to be entering the Puget Sound area at about your arrival time, about one o'clock this afternoon." He was also advised that at the time of the briefing there were "...airmets for higher terrain occasionally obscured and for occasional moderate turbulence below fifteen thousand feet." Later in the same briefing, he was advised that after two o'clock, the route forecast was for four thousand broken, eight thousand overcast, "...with some areas of light rain, and some localized areas of visibility's four miles in rain showers." The briefer also told the pilot that after 1100 at Astoria, the surface winds would be increasing to ten knots, gusting to eighteen knots, with "...visibility greater than six, six thousand broken, ten thousand overcast, with some periods of ceilings four thousand broken in light rainshowers..." In addition, he was told that there was a chance of showers in the Puget Sound area after 1400, and that the surface winds would be increasing in the Puget Sound area after 1400, "...becoming one six zero at twelve, gusting to twenty."

The student pilot said that, after receiving his briefing, he completed his flight planing and " my cross-country sign-off." After receiving the sign-off from his instructor, who did not monitor the weather briefing, he filed his flight plan, and then departed Paine Field at 0845. About 10 minutes after departure, the pilot contacted Seattle Radio and asked that his flight plan be activated. Seattle radio said that they would activate his flight plan, and then advised him that " this time advisories en route for mountain obscurment, turbulence, and icing; a VFR flight is not recommended through any areas of mountain obscuration." And then they told him if he needed any updates on weather that he should " Seattle Flight Watch..."

The pilot landed at Hillsboro Airport about 1030, did some additional flight planning, and then departed for the return leg to Paine Field about 1105. While at Hillsboro, he did not get an updated weather briefing, nor did he contact flight watch for the purpose of attaining updated weather at any time during the flight. The only weather update information the pilot received after his initial departure from Paine Field was when Portland Approach, which was providing flight-following from Hillsboro to Astoria, gave him the Astoria 1856 UTC METAR. That report indicated that Astoria was still VFR at that time, with 10 miles visibility and an overcast at 3,900 feet AGL.

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