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On November 3, 1997, at 1143 hours Pacific standard time, a Cessna 182R, N2043E, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain approximately 19 statute miles south of Markleeville, California. The pilot and one observer were fatally injured and a second observer was seriously burned. The flight departed Carson City, Nevada, on a local Civil Air Patrol search mission as a U.S. Air Force Auxiliary aircraft. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and a VFR flight plan had been filed.
The pilot was a retired United Airlines captain and held an airline transport pilot certificate with airplane single and multiengine land, instrument-airplane and helicopter, and certified flight instructor ratings. He also held a valid first-class medical certificate with a restriction to wear corrective lenses while piloting an aircraft. He had flown a total of 19,480 hours in all types of aircraft with 30 hours in the previous 90 days.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated that the aircraft was a 1982 model Cessna 182R powered by a 230 horsepower Teledyne-Continental engine, model O-470U. The aircraft logbook indicated a total flight time of 6,062 hours. The engine log indicated that the engine had a total of 1,093 hours since new.
At the time of the accident, a high pressure system was dominant over the central Sierra Nevada mountains with visibility in excess of 30 miles, and thin/broken-to-scattered cloud formations at 8,000 feet agl. The free air temperature and dew point were 63 and 27 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. The wind was from 190 degrees magnetic at 6 knots, and the altimeter setting was 30.35 inches of mercury. The density altitude at the accident site was calculated to be approximately 10,600 feet msl.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft was found at a GPS indicated altitude of 8,896 feet msl on the south side of a box canyon that ran upslope from east to west. Although ground scars indicated that the aircraft impacted the ground on a magnetic heading of approximately 060 degrees, initial tree scars indicated that the original flight path had been somewhere between 240 and 280 degrees magnetic.
Tree and ground scars, plus aircraft damage, indicated that the aircraft was in a steep nose-down and partially inverted attitude at final impact. The tail section and main fuselage had come to rest at the foot of several pine trees with the engine laying 15 feet further along the final flight path. The left wing was immediately adjacent to the fuselage and the right wing 10 feet forward and left of the final impact point.
The aircraft had clipped a tree 30 feet agl 50 feet prior to impact with the ground. There was charred underbrush surrounding the wreckage with a variable burn radius of 30 to 50 feet.
The aircraft throttle was found in the full open position, the mixture control in a mid position between full rich and idle cutoff, and the propeller governor in the high rpm (low pitch) position. The propeller had separated from the engine crankshaft flange and was found adjacent to the engine. There was no evidence of impact damage on one of the prop blades, while the other had a 10-degree forward bend 8 inches inboard from the tip and chordwise lacerations in the quarter span area on the noncambered side of the blade. The engine and magnetos were extensively burned and it was not possible to verify cylinder compression or the state of the ignition system. The engine exhaust muffler was recovered and neither baffle distortion nor other internal restrictions to flow were found.
The aircraft control cables between the cockpit and the tail surfaces were found intact, but the aileron and wing flap control systems were destroyed. The wing flaps were faired with the wing and the pitch trim tab was in a slightly nose-down trim position.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Alpine County Coroner's office performed toxicological tests on the pilot and found negative results for carbon monoxide, alcohol, and pertinent drugs.
TEST AND RESEARCH INFORMATION
On January 8, 1998, the aircraft engine underwent a teardown inspection at the Continental Engine Facility in Mobile, Alabama. The FAA inspector who witnessed that inspection stated that no evidence was found of internal failure, excessively worn parts, or an incorrect assembly.
The rear seat observer survived the accident and provided a verbal account of the accident to the Alpine County Sheriff. He stated that the front seat observer, who was a pilot but not a designated copilot, was flying the aircraft to allow the pilot to scan terrain to the left of the flight path. As they proceeded up the canyon, it appeared to the rear seat observer that the front seat observer allowed the aircraft to get too close to the ground at too low an airspeed for the density altitude and terrain conditions. He also stated that the aircraft commander noticed this and took over the controls, but was unable to prevent the aircraft from striking a tree after which it cartwheeled to the left into the ground.
Subsequent to the onsite investigation, the aircraft engine was released for crating and shipment to Mobile. The rest of the aircraft wreckage was released to the senior Civil Air Patrol representative on site for transport to their hanger at Stead Field in Reno, Nevada. The engine was returned to Stead Field following completion of the teardown inspection.