On May 24, 1993, at 1520 hours MST, a Cessna 172N, N734DB, collided with the shear rock face of a cliff near Page, Arizona. The aircraft was rented by the pilot for a personal cross country flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed for the operation. The aircraft was destroyed in the collision sequence and post crash fire. The private pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated at the North Las Vegas Airport on the morning of the accident with a stop at the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, Arizona. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot rented the airplane and received a proficiency checkout from a private operator at the North Las Vegas Airport. The pilot told the operator that he was going to fly to the Grand Canyon and return later that day. The pilot left a message with the airplane operator which consisted of a phone number in Australia to call in case of an emergency. He had also left a similar message at the motel where he was staying.
According to fueling and airport records at the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, the pilot landed there at about 1030 in the morning on the day of the accident. After landing, the pilot purchased 13.2 gallons of fuel for the airplane. The departure time was estimated by FAA personnel to be about 1500 hours the same day.
After the collision a witness took a picture of the post crash fire and smoke which is included in this report. Review of the photograph revealed that the smoke from the post crash fire rose vertically until the plateau top where it then streamed almost horizontally.
According to search and rescue (SAR) personnel, the airplane had collided in a near level flight attitude with the Vermillion Cliffs of the Paria Plateau. The collision point was estimated by the SAR personnel to be about 150 to 200 feet below the top of the cliffs. After the collision the wreckage fell about 100 feet to a narrow ledge below.
According to information obtained from both the FAA and the Coconino County Sheriff's office, the pilot was an Australian national from South Perth, West Australia. A United States private pilot's certificate was issued to the pilot on May 21, 1993, on the basis of his Australian private pilot certificate. According to the airplane operators accident report, the pilot reported a total flight time of 450 hours with 200 hours in the Cessna 172 airplane.
The airplane, a Cessna 172N, was manufactured as a 1977 year model. A review of the maintenance records revealed that at the last annual inspection on October 9, 1992, the airplane had accumulated about 3090 total flight hours on the airframe. The engine log at that date revealed 117 hours since major overhaul. There were no known unresolved maintenance discrepancies against the aircraft prior to departure on the accident flight.
According to witnesses and pilots flying in the area the weather was clear at the time of the accident. One pilot that observed the post crash fire and attempted to determine the cause or identify the fire source stated that it was very turbulent with an upslope wind out of the southwest at about 20 to 25 miles per hour. He reported the fire as an plane crash but could not identify the make or model.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was recovered by helicopter to a storage facility in Phoenix Arizona where it was examined. The entire aircraft was accounted for after the recovery. Airframe and engine control continuity was not possible due to the intensity of the post crash fire.
The propeller displayed leading edge damage and aft bending. The propeller was noted to be fractured in two at the hub. The cast aluminum propeller spacer was not recovered.
The engine crankshaft flange was noted to be bent aft at the nine o'clock position. The shaft boss flange was fractured between eight o'clock to about twelve o'clock.
Both engine cylinders on the right side, numbers one and three, were found broken from the crankcase. Most of the crankcase through bolts were found sheared in two with the right crankcase shifted aft.
Heavy accordioning of the right wing was observed over the full wing span. The left wing was noted to be mostly consumed by post crash fire as was the fuselage center section aft to the area of the horizontal stabilizer.
The airspeed indicator face, diaphragm, sector gear and some linkage was recovered and taken to an FAA approved instrument shop. The instrument shop compared the damaged and burnt parts to an exemplar airspeed instrument. The comparison revealed that the accident components matched the exemplar components at an approximate airspeed indication of 80 miles per hour. On the face of the instrument, an interrupted burn pattern about the width of an indicator needle was observed pointing to about 80 miles per hour.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On May 27, 1993, the Coconino County Medical Examiner performed a standard autopsy on the pilot. According to the autopsy report, the cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries due to impact.
No pre-existing conditions were noted during the autopsy which would have adversely affected the decedents abilities to pilot an aircraft.
Specimens from the pilot were retained during the autopsy for toxicological examination by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the report prepared by CAMI, the results of the toxicological analysis were inconclusive due to the lack of suitable specimens.