On June 15, 1999, about 1245 Alaska daylight time, a wheel equipped Cessna 180A airplane, N5218D, sustained substantial damage after colliding with trees about 1/2 mile west of the Chena Hot Springs Airport, a private airport about 42 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by the pilot. The certificated airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight originated at the McKinley National Park Airport, about 1200.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness inspector from Fairbanks Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), responded to the accident scene, and talked with the pilot. The inspector reported that the pilot was beginning a landing approach to runway 25. The pilot began a go-around by starting a left turn. The pilot observed rising terrain in the direction of the left turn, and initiated a turn to the right. During the turn, the airplane was unable to climb above the trees, and collided with several spruce trees. The airplane received extensive damage to the fuselage and wings.

The pilot completed a Pilot/Operator report (NTSB form 6120.1/2). In the narrative portion of the report, the pilot said he planned to conduct a fly-by inspection of the airport before landing. He turned onto the final approach, and decided to skip the fly-by. He discovered he was high on the glide path, and began a go-around. He indicated he did not analyze a go-around track until he started the maneuver. He began a turn to the left, but the terrain was visually deceiving, and rising steeply. The pilot then turned to the right, but the airplane was unable to out-climb the terrain.

The Chena Hot Springs airport has a reported elevation of 1,195 feet msl. The airport is located in an open area of essentially flat terrain, along a creek drainage. Except for the creek drainage, the airport is surrounded by rising, tree-covered hills. The gravel/turf runway, oriented 070/250 degrees magnetic, is 2,000 feet long and 50 feet wide. The Alaska Supplement/Facility Directory states, in part: "Runway 07, approach in Creek Valley; runway muddy and washed, 6 to 12 inches deep; not maintained."

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