On July 8, 1993, at 2145 Alaska daylight time, a float equipped Piper PA-16 airplane, N5960H, registered to Jonathan L. Finkel of Fairbanks, Alaska, and operated by the Pilot in Command, collided with another airplane, N87568, a Piper PA 18 airplane, while in cruise flight and preparing to enter a right base for the Float Pond at the Fairbanks International Airport, Fairbanks, Alaska. The accident occurred 8 miles east of the airport on the 100 degree radial of the Fairbanks VOR. The personal flight, operating under 14 CFR Part 91, last departed the Float Pond for a local fishing trip at an unknown location and was returning to the Float Pond. No flight plan was filed and visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The airplane was substantially damaged and the Pilot in Command and the passenger were fatally injured.

The Piper PA-18 airplane, N87568, registered to and operated by the Pilot-in-Command, Ralph J. Stuhr, departed the housing subdivision's airstrip in North Pole, Alaska, between 2130 and 2145. A flight plan was filed but not activated. The destination was the Tanana Flats.

According to Fairbanks Tower Tapes, N5960H called in and stated he was 5 miles to the east for landing on the float pond. The tower cleared him for entry into a right base. Shortly after acknowledging the call, N5960H called and stated he was being pushed up and collided with another airplane; he was coming apart and going down out of control. The airplane crashed approximately 10 miles to the east of Fairbanks International Airport.



All flight control surfaces and major components of the airplane were located at the accident scene except for the floats. The floats were located 1 mile north of the accident site. The airplane did not burn and was substantially damaged.


All flight controls and major components with the exception of the outboard 2 feet of the left wing were found at the accident site. The main wreckage was destroyed by fire and impact forces.

The floats from N5960H and the outboard 2 feet of the left wing from N87568 were located approximately 1 mile north of N87568 wreckage site. The floats were 100 yards west of the 2 foot wing section.



The Pilot-in-Command of N5960H, was the holder of an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, number 317443971, with ratings in airplane single engine and multi engine land. He had commercial privileges in airplane single engine sea. He held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single and multi engine, and instrument airplane ratings. He was the holder of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Class 2 Medical Certificate, issued on 01/25/93, with a restriction that required him to wear glasses for near and distant vision. According to information provided by the FAA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, he had a total flight time of 6925 hours.

The passenger of N5960H was also a certificated pilot, certificate number 427255340. He held a Private Pilot Certificate with an airplane single engine land rating only. He was the holder of a FAA Class 3 Medical Certificate, issued on 03/03/93, with a restriction that required him to wear corrective lenses and was not valid for night flying or by color signal control. He was seated in the left seat.

According to the registered airplane owner, the Pilot-in- Command was authorized to use the airplane and he used it for float plane flight instruction.


The Pilot-in-Command of N87568 was the holder of a Private Pilot Certificate, number 1729006, with airplane single engine land and sea ratings. He was the holder of a FAA Class 3 Medical Certificate, issued on 09/03/92, with a restriction that required him to wear lenses for distant vision and possess glasses for near vision. According to information provided by the FAA the pilot had a total flight time of 1400 hours.


Visual meteorological conditions prevailed through out the Tanana and Fairbanks area. According to the Fairbanks International Airport 2058 hourly observation the skies were 7,500 scattered, 8,000 broken and 27,000 overcast. The sun however was low in the sky and near the horizon. The trajectory of the sun at that time of the year is very shallow and even when the sky is overcast the sun becomes visible when it is low on the horizon. The sun was visible below the clouds and above the horizon and was situated in the northwestern sky.

According to an azimuth and elevation computation program from MACSWAIN Enterprises, V1.1, the sun was 9.5 degrees above the horizon and on a 303.7 degree azimuth.


N5960H contacted Fairbanks Tower at 2134 when he was 8 miles east of the airport. He stated he was inbound for the float pond and had information "MIKE." He was told to report a right base for float pond one. According to the Fairbanks Tower Controller at 2153 he heard N5960H state he hit another aircraft and was about five miles east, out of control, going down. There was no other call or response from N5960H.

There is no record of any radio contact with N87568.



This airplane wreckage was located at coordinates 64 degrees 42.295' North and 147 degrees 41.199' West. The general elevation of the area varies between 400 to 600 feet above mean sea level. The area in which the airplane crashed was a small stand of trees surrounded by swamp and marsh. The airplane was laying on its right side with the nose of the airplane pointing to 345 degrees magnetic. The right wing was attached to the fuselage and was crushed by the fuselage. The left wing was attached to the fuselage at the wing roots and was resting parallel to the airplane's heading and forward of the main wreckage.

Examination of the wreckage showed that no flaps were applied, that the airplane was equipped with dual controls, the mixture control was full rich, the throttle was full on, and the primer was locked. All flight control surfaces were located at the scene. The floats were missing and only the rear vertical float struts were found.

According to the strikes on the surrounding trees, the airplane descended into the stand of trees moving in an easterly direction of 073 degrees magnetic. According to information supplied by Fairbanks Tower and the location of the wreckage and the float pond, the airplane's flight path was generally a west, northwest direction.

There was no fire.


This airplane was located approximately 1/4 mile north of the wreckage of N5960H, a magnetic bearing of 356 degrees. The airplane was destroyed by post impact fire and was resting on its left side in a brush covered area. The nose of the airplane was pointing to a heading of 110 degrees magnetic. The left wing was destroyed by the fire, however, enough of the spar was located to show that it came to rest perpendicular to the main fuselage, pointing in a northerly direction. The right wing was located forward of the nose of the airplane and nearly parallel to the fuselage. The floats remained attached to the fuselage and were resting against two trees.

The flight path of this airplane is not known, however, according to the wife of the Pilot-in-Command of N87568, he departed North Pole and was destined for the Tanana Flats which would have required a westerly general direction.

Approximately 1/2 mile further north of the wreckage of N87568, the floats of N5960H were located. They were resting in a swamp on their left side. They remained attached to each other only through the water rudder cable system. The left float was positioned ahead of the left float and was crushed at the bow of the float. The right float had a hole on its right side approximately 3 feet aft of the bow. The hole started near the middle of the float and angled forward and downward. There were red paint scuff marks along a linear indentation that aligned with the long axis of the hole.

Approximately 100 yards east of the floats a section of wing, approximately the outboard 2 feet, was located and the access panel to the remote gyro was labeled N87568. The fabric covering the section of wing was painted with red diamonds over a white base color.


Autopsies and toxicologies were performed on all occupants. According to the Pathologist, Roger F. Harding, M.D., Pathologists, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, 1650 Cowles Street, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99701, the occupants died of multiple trauma received in an aircraft accident. Toxicology samples for James Stuhr, Racheal Stuhr, and Lee Tomlinson were negative. However, the toxicology report for Donald Sparks, the Pilot-in-Command of N5960H, showed positive for ethyl alcohol. The blood sample shoed a level of 0.060 gm/dl and the urine showed a level of 0.046 gm/dl. According to the Pathologist, he stated that these results indicate the recent ingestion of a moderate amount of ethyl alcohol.


According to information provided by the rescue personnel, the individual in the left seat of N5960H was Lee M. Tomlinson Jr. identified by his driver's license. The Pilot-in-Command position for this airplane was the left seat. Donald K. Sparks was a Certificated Flight Instructor and Lee M. Tomlinson Jr. had been taking float flight instruction from Donald K. Sparks.

The Pilot-in-Command for N87568, a tandem seat airplane, was seated in front seat.

The landing light for N5960H was examined and the filament was intact and unstretched.

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