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On August 10, 1999, at 1440 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 177, N29437, impacted terrain while maneuvering in a box canyon approximately 10 miles southeast of the Boulder City, Nevada, airport. The airplane, operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91 by the private pilot/owner as an instructional flight, was destroyed. The certified flight instructor (CFI) received serious injuries, and the private pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated at the Boulder City airport about 1330 for the local area flight.
A witness to the accident stated that he saw the airplane make a right turn into the box canyon. He stated that the airplane was flush with a bluff that is approximately 100 feet above the floor of the canyon. The witness stated that he watched the airplane fly up the box canyon and make a tight left turn, and then saw a dust cloud. During the accident sequence, the witness reported the engine was producing power and he did not hear a sound change, or sputtering of the engine.
The owner's son was at the airport at the time of the accident. He stated that he and his father had been looking to purchase an airplane for a couple of months. They flew out to Nevada from Louisiana to purchase the accident airplane. The son stated that the airplane broker hired a CFI to provide instruction, and to accompany the two men on the return trip back to Louisiana.
The son reported that prior to his flight on the morning of the accident, the airplane was refueled to capacity by adding approximately 18 gallons of fuel. He reported that he and the CFI had gone out to practice maneuvers and get a general feel for the airplane. The son stated that he did some power on and power off stalls, with no discrepancies noted. The CFI then had him conduct a simulated engine-out procedure into the box canyon where the accident occurred. He completed three 360-degree turns, and made the approach into downsloping terrain. The CFI then told him he was "too hot and too high," and took the controls from him. The son stated that the CFI then "slipped" the airplane and lost approximately 100 feet of altitude, then gave him the controls again. The son said he terminated the maneuver and informed the CFI that he was not used to mountain flying and was uncomfortable being so low. He further stated that he told the CFI that he felt comfortable with the engine-out procedure that he had just performed. He flew for approximately 1.2 hours the day of the accident, and no discrepancies were noted with the airframe or powerplant.
During the accident pilot's preflight of the airplane on the accident flight, it was noted that there was oil on the outside of the cowling. The pilot and mechanic removed the cowling and noted oil on the topside of the cowling and on the top of the engine. The oil was cleaned off of the cowling and engine, and no further discrepancies were noted.
A Lieutenant from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department Air Division responded to the scene in a police helicopter and landed 1 hour after the accident. He stated that the flight crew noted swirling winds in the box canyon during their approach and that it was difficult to land due to the turbulent conditions. After obtaining witness statements, the flight crew flew the described flight path. As the helicopter flew up the middle of the box canyon they noted that as the wash widened, the terrain also rose. Due to the winds the helicopter was pushed towards the accident location, and at the completion of the turn, the helicopter was over the wreckage.
A Safety Board investigator reviewed the CFI's logbook, and estimated the pilot's total flight time to be 1,190 hours. Based on the entries in the logbook, it was estimated that he had approximately 129 hours in the accident airplane. He accrued approximately 383 hours in the last 90 days, 161 hours in the last 30 days, and 6 hours in the last 24 hours. The flight hours were accumulated in various types of airplanes. Review of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Certification records disclosed that the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane ratings for single and multiengine land and instruments. In addition, he held a flight instructor certificate with airplane ratings for single engine and instruments. The most recent first-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on August 17, 1998. He was required to wear glasses for distant vision.
The private pilot/owner's logbook was reviewed, and it was estimated that the pilot's total flight time was 174 hours, and there were no flight hours accrued in the accident airplane make and model. Review of the FAA Airman Certification records revealed that his private pilot certificate was issued on January 14, 1983, and that he held an airplane single engine land rating. He had a Biennial Flight Review on July 21, 1997. The most recent third-class medical certificate was issued on July 15, 1999. He was required to wear corrective lenses to correct for near and distant vision. On September 2, 1982, he was issued a Statement of Demonstrated Ability for defective vision in his left eye.
Review of the airplane logbook and engine logbooks disclosed that an annual inspection was completed on May 14, 1999. It was also noted that the airplane had not flown since 1995.
Attempts were made to obtain pre-buy inspection information concerning the airplane from the aircraft broker from whom the pilot had purchased the airplane. The broker could not be located and certified mail sent to his last known address was returned unclaimed.
The aviation surface weather report from Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport, approximately 35 nautical miles from the accident site, reported: winds from 150 degrees at 20 knots gusting to 25 knots; temperature 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and dew point 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located on the south side of El Dorado Wash approximately 1 mile from the Colorado River. The flat wash area was in rising terrain with scrub brush, loose dirt, and rocks typical of high desert terrain. The airplane came to rest on the north facing side of a ravine. The fuselage was located on the rising portion of the ravine, with the tail section on the downsloping side. All major airplane components were found within the wreckage distribution area. The bluff surrounding the ravine where the wreckage was located was examined and no ground scars were found.
The airplane and powerplant were inspected on-scene. The fuel selector was found in the both position. Both propeller blades were twisted and bent forward with chordwise scratches. The cowling was removed and no oil was found either on the top of the cowling or on the engine. The top spark plugs were removed and the inside of the cylinders were inspected with a boroscope; no discrepancies were noted.
The throttle and mixture cables were connected to the carburetor, which remained attached to the engine. It was removed and inspected. The throttle lever was moved forward and a steady stream of fuel was observed to flow out of the nozzle assembly. The carburetor was disassembled; it was noted that the metal type floats were intact, and that the carburetor bowl had fuel present. The fuel was blue in color and smelled like aviation fuel.
The airframe and powerplant were further inspected at Kenny's Mobile Aircraft Service on August 12, 1999.
Flight control continuity was established from the cockpit to the flaps, stabilizer, ailerons, and rudder. The flap actuator jackscrew was measured at 2.9 inches of extension. According to the manufacturer's representative, this corresponded to approximately 10 degrees flap extension. The flap indicator inside the cockpit was found in the up position.
Mechanical continuity was established throughout the engine. Crankshaft rotation produced thumb compression in each cylinder, with accessory gear and valve train continuity established. The bottom spark plugs were examined with no discrepancies noted. The magneto to engine timing was established and found to be within manufacturer specifications, and within 1 degree of each other. The magnetos were rotated and produced sparks at the spark plug leads in firing order. The fuel pump plunger was tested with no discrepancies noted. The exhaust system was inspected with a boroscope; the baffles were intact and no oil residue was found.
No discrepancies were noted with either the airframe or the powerplant during the followup examination.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Clark County Coroner conducted an autopsy on the pilot on August 11, 1999. A toxicological analysis was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from samples obtained during the autopsy. The results of the analysis were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.
The airplane, along with personal effects, was released to Rogge Insurance Services on August 12, 1999.