ANC99FA130
ANC99FA130

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 3, 1999, at an estimated time of 1130 Alaska daylight time, a wheel equipped Piper PA-32R-300 airplane, N9166K, collided with mountainous terrain, about 22 miles north-northwest of Bettles, Alaska. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) scheduled domestic flight under Title 14, CFR Part 135, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by Servant Air Inc., Fairbanks, Alaska, as Flight 502. The commercial certificated pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. A VFR flight plan was filed. The flight originated at the Anaktuvuk Pass Airport, Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, about 1045.

At 0602 on September 3, a company representative telephoned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Fairbanks Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) and requested two standard VFR weather briefings. One briefing was for the accident airplane, N9166K, with a route from Fairbanks, to Tanana, Alaska, to Galena, Alaska, to Lake Minchumina, Alaska, to Fairbanks. The second briefing was for N8540F, with a route from Fairbanks, to Fort Yukon, Alaska, to Bettles, to Anaktuvuk Pass, to Fairbanks. The company representative said he would pick up the weather briefings in person at 0700. The weather data was retrieved by company personnel.

The chief pilot for Servant Air Inc. said the airplane was on a flight from Fairbanks, to Anaktuvuk Pass, to Bettles, and return to Fairbanks. The estimated time of arrival in Fairbanks was 1251. The airplane was carrying about 119 pounds of U.S. mail.

At 0746, the pilot of the accident airplane contacted the Fairbanks AFSS Automated Fast File system by telephone, and filed a VFR flight plan from Fairbanks, to Anaktuvuk Pass, to Bettles, to Fairbanks. He indicated he had two and a half hours of fuel, and he would fuel in Bettles. He said the total time en route was four hours, and his cruising speed was 140 knots.

At 0851, the pilot of the accident airplane contacted the Fairbanks AFSS by radio, stating he was at Murphy Dome, Alaska, (15 miles west of Fairbanks), and activated his flight plan. The AFSS specialist acknowledged the radio contact, and advised the pilot of AIRMETs for mountain obscuration and icing. The pilot then requested the latest weather conditions for Anaktuvuk Pass. The specialist reported, "...Anaktuvuk automated at 35 past the hour; wind, 020 degrees at 5 knots; visibility, 10 miles; few clouds at 3,400 feet, ceiling 4,500 feet overcast; temperature, 5 degrees celsius; dew point, 3 degrees celsius; altimeter, 29.34 inHg; have a pilot report during climb northbound, a Navajo reported 1,000 feet scattered, 2,000 feet broken, pretty much IMC, solid from 6,500 to 10,000 feet,..."

At 0927, the accident pilot contacted the Fairbanks AFSS via Bettles Radio, and requested the latest weather conditions for Anaktuvuk Pass. The specialist reported, "...Anaktuvuk Pass automated at 15 past the hour; wind, 010 degrees at 15 knots; visibility, 10 miles; ceiling 4,300 feet broken, 5,500 feet overcast; temperature 6 degrees celsius; dew point, 3 degrees celsius; altimeter, 29.34 inHg."

The village agent for the company in Anaktuvuk Pass, reported the accident airplane departed about 1045.

A weather observer with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contract weather observation station in Bettles, said the pilot of the airplane made a radio call with words to the effect that he was "inbound" to Bettles. The airplane did not arrive, and was subsequently reported overdue by the company. An alert notice (ALNOT) was issued at 1342.

Several time/location disparities were noted during the accident investigation. In his personnel statement, the AFSS specialist who opened the pilot's flight plan departing Fairbanks, reported the flight plan was opened at 0815, rather than 0851, which was recorded on the Fairbanks AFSS audio tapes. On the company's flight log paperwork recovered from the accident airplane, the pilot noted that his departure at 0815 was from Bettles, not Fairbanks, with an arrival at Anaktuvuk Pass at 1010. The pilot then noted a departure from Anaktuvuk Pass at 1025, with a destination of Bettles. In addition, the weather observer at Bettles noted the time of the pilot's "inbound" radio call on a piece of note paper as 1230 local time. The distance from Anaktuvuk Pass to Bettles is 73 nautical miles.

Search personnel located the accident site on September 4, 1999, about 1330, at an elevation of about 4,500 feet msl. The wreckage was found on the northwest face of Twoday Mountain. The elevation of Twoday Mountain is 4,720 feet msl. The accident site was covered by about 4 inches of snow. The accident site was located on a direct line, oriented 150 degrees, between Anaktuvuk Pass, and Bettles.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at latitude 67 degrees, 16.644 minutes north, and longitude 151 degrees, 36.132 minutes west.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument airplane ratings. The most recent second-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on August 31, 1999, and contained the limitation that the holder shall wear corrective lenses.

No personal flight records were located for the pilot. The aeronautical experience listed on page 3 of this report was obtained from company records. A review of the airmen FAA records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City, revealed that on the pilot's application for medical certificate, dated August 31, 1999, indicated that his total aeronautical experience consisted of about 2,800 hours, of which 100 hours were accrued in the previous 6 months.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

At the accident scene, the airplane's Hobbs meter indicated 5928.5 hours. Examination of the maintenance records revealed the airplane had accrued 7,531.3 hours. The most recent annual inspection was accomplished on March 11, 1999, 484.7 hours before the accident. In addition, a 100-hour inspection was completed on August 2, 1999, 91.2 hours before the accident. A 50-hour inspection was done on August 18, 1999, 41.9 hours before the accident.

The engine had accrued a total time of 5,527.6 hours. As of March 11, 1999, the engine had accrued 1,698.3 hours since being overhauled on February 18, 1997. The annual, 100-hour, and 50-hour inspections were accomplished on the dates specified above for the airframe.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

An area forecast for the northern half of Alaska, issued on September 3, 1999, at 0545, and valid until 2400, stated, in part: A 990 millibar low near Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, will move just north of Barter Island LRRS by 2400. An associated occluded front between Tanana, Alaska, to Fort Yukon, Alaska, to Mayo, Canada, will move to the Arctic coast by 1900, and well offshore by 2400. Another 990 millibar low, 10 miles south of Gambell, Alaska, will move just south of Hooper Bay, Alaska, by 2400. A trough of low pressure extending south will move with the low.

For the upper Yukon Valley, valid until 1800; clouds and sky condition, 5,000 feet scattered, 7,000 feet overcast, tops at 10,000 feet, merging layers above to 28,000 feet. Occasionally, 5,000 feet broken; visibility, 4 statute miles in light rain and mist. Outlook, valid from 1800 to September 4, 1999, at 1200; marginal VFR with ceilings due to snow and rain. Turbulence; isolated moderate turbulence below 6,000 feet. Icing and freezing level; AIRMET for icing from Fairbanks to Arctic Village, Alaska, westward, occasional moderate rime icing in clouds and in precipitation from 6,000 to 18,000 feet. Freezing level, 6,000 feet, no change.

For the Tanana Valley, valid until 1800; AIRMET for mountain obscuration, mountains occasionally obscured in clouds and precipitation, no change. Clouds and sky condition; 3,000 feet scattered, 5,000 feet broken, 10,000 feet overcast, tops at 14,000 feet, merging layers above to 28,000 feet. Occasionally, 3,000 feet broken; visibility, 4 statute miles in light rain and mist. From Fairbanks westward, occasional rain, isolated ceilings below 1,000 feet. Outlook, valid from 1800 to September 4, at 1200; VFR with ceilings due to snow and rain. Turbulence; isolated moderate turbulence below 6,000 feet. Icing and freezing level; AIRMET for icing from Fairbanks westward, occasional moderate rime icing in clouds and in precipitation from 6,000 feet to 18,000 feet. Freezing level, 6,000 feet, no change.

For the Kuyokuk and upper Kobuk Valley, valid until 1800; AIRMET for icing south of the Purcell Mountains, occasional ceilings below 1,000 feet, with visibility below 3 statute miles in light rain and mist, improving. AIRMET for mountain obscuration, mountains occasionally obscured in clouds and in precipitation, no change. Clouds and sky condition; 3,000 feet scattered, 4,500 feet broken to overcast, tops at 8,000 feet, merging layers above to 28,000 feet, occasionally 3,000 feet broken. From Anaktuvuk Pass to Huslia, Alaska, eastward, occasional visibility 4 statute miles in light rain and mist. Elsewhere, widely scattered light rain. Turbulence; none. Icing and freezing level; AIRMET for icing from Anaktuvuk Pass to Huslia eastward, occasional moderate rime icing in clouds and in precipitation from 6,000 to 18,000 feet. Freezing level, 6,000 feet, no change.

An area forecast for the northern half of Alaska, issued on September 3, 1999, at 1145, and valid until 2400, stated, in part: A 993 millibar low near Eielson AFB, Fairbanks, will move to 60 nautical miles east of Arctic Village, Alaska, by 0600 on September 4. An associated occluded from Anaktuvuk Pass to Eagle, Alaska, to Skagway, Alaska, will move northeast to well offshore the Arctic coast, and across the MacKenzie Delta (Canada) to Great Bear Lake (Canada) by 0600. Another 992 millibar low 60 nautical miles west of Hooper Bay, Alaska, will move southeast to 60 nautical miles south of St. Mary's, Alaska, by 0600. A trough of low pressure extending south from the low will move east.

For the Koyukuk and upper Kobuk Valley; clouds and sky condition, 3,000 feet scattered, 5,000 feet broken to overcast, tops 15,000 feet, separated layers above to 30,000 feet. Occasionally, 3,000 feet broken; visibility, 5 statute miles in light rain. Mountains south of the Brooks Range; occasional visibility 3 statute miles in light rain, and mist. Outlook, valid from 2400 to 1800 on September 4, marginal VFR with ceilings due to rain. AIRMETS; mountain obscuration, mountains occasionally obscured in clouds and in precipitation, no change. No turbulence. Icing; light, isolated moderate rime icing in clouds from 6,000 to 15,000 feet. Freezing level, 6,000 feet.

For the north slopes of the Brooks Range, valid until 2400; clouds and sky condition, 4,000 feet scattered, 7,000 feet broken, tops 15,000 feet, cirrus clouds above. Occasionally, 4,000 feet broken in light rain. Outlook, valid until September 4, at 1800, IFR with ceilings due to rain and mist. Passes; Anaktuvuk and Atigun Pass, VFR with occasional marginal VFR with ceilings due to rain. No turbulence. Icing; light rime icing in clouds from 6,000 feet to 15,000 feet. Freezing level, 6,000 feet.

A terminal forecast for Bettles was issued on September 3, 1999, at 0340, and was valid from 0400 to 0400 on September 4. It stated, in part: Wind, 030 degrees at 10 knots; visibility, greater than 6 statute miles in light rain; clouds and sky condition, 5,000 feet broken. From 1000 to 1600 on September 4; wind 030 degrees at 10 knots; visibility, 5 statute miles in light rain and mist; 1,000 feet scattered, 2,500 feet overcast. From 1800 to 1600 on September 4, 1999; wind, 290 degrees at 12 knots; visibility, 3 statute miles in light rain and mist; 1,000 feet overcast.

A terminal forecast for Bettles was issued on September 3, 1999, at 0940, and was valid from 1000 to 1000 on September 4. It stated, in part: Wind, variable at 3 knots; visibility, greater than 6 statute miles in light rain; clouds and sky condition, 3,500 feet overcast. Temporary conditions from 1000 to 1800, visibility 4 statute miles in light rain and mist; 2,000 feet overcast. From 1800 to 1600 on September 4; wind, 290 degrees at 5 knots; visibility, 5 statute miles in light rain and mist, 2,000 feet overcast. Temporary conditions from 1800 to 1000 on September 4; visibility 2 statute miles in light rain and mist, 800 feet overcast.

The closest official weather observation station to the accident site is Bettles, Alaska. On September 3, 1999, at 1050, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting in part: Wind, 354 degrees (magnetic) at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles in light rain; clouds and sky condition, few at 300 feet, 2,500 feet broken, 6,000 feet overcast; temperature, 50 degrees F; dew point, 50 degrees F; altimeter, 29.32 inHg.

At 1150, a METAR was reporting, in part: Wind, 344 degrees (magnetic) at 4 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles in light rain; clouds and sky condition, few at 500 feet, 1,500 feet broken, 5,000 feet overcast; temperature, 52 degrees F; dew point, 50 degrees F; altimeter, 29.32 inHg; remarks, conditions lower in the vicinity from the west to northwest.

An automated surface observation system (ASOS) at Bettles had been installed and was undergoing testing before certification. At 1053, the ASOS was reporting, in part: Wind, variable at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles in light rain; clouds and sky condition, 4,000 feet scattered, 5,500 feet overcast; temperature, 50 degrees F; dew point, 50 degrees F; altimeter, 29.32 inHg.

At 1125, the ASOS was reporting, in part: Wind, variable at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles in light rain; clouds and sky condition, few at 1,400 feet, 2,100 feet broken, 4,500 feet overcast; temperature, 52 degrees F; dew point, 50 degrees F; altimeter, 29.32 inHg.

At 1035, an automated weather observation system at Anaktuvuk Pass was reporting, in part: Wind, 354 degrees (magnetic) at 3 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, 2,700 feet broken, 3,900 feet broken, 9,000 feet overcast; temperature, 43 degrees F; dew point, 39 degrees F; altimeter, 29.34 inHg.

COMMUNICATIONS

Review of communications tapes maintained by the FAA at the Fairbanks AFSS revealed no unusual communications between the FAA and the pilot.

A transcript of the communications is included in this report.

The contract weather observation station at Bettles does not have recording capability.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) examined the airplane wreckage at the accident site on September 5, 1999. Twoday Mountain has steep areas of tundra, mixed with areas of rock, and steep angled rock faces. Scattered patches of snow remained on the ground. The airplane collided with the northwest face of the mountain. A path of wreckage debris and ground scars, from the first observed point of ground contact to the wreckage point of rest, was on a magnetic heading of 200 degrees. (All heading/bearings noted in this report are oriented toward magnetic north.)

The first observed point of ground contact was an area of soil disruption next to a steep rock face with a torn portion of metal at the impact site. Scratches were noted on the rock face that angled upward and the right (southwest), about 45 degrees. The cabin area of the fuselage and the empennage came to rest about 50 feet to the right (southwest), and about 10 feet above the first point of impact. Small pieces of metal were found torn, folded, and wedged into cracks along the rock face.

The cabin area was extensively crushed and distorted to the right from the longitudinal axis of the empennage. The left horizontal stabilator was crushed and folded aft, against the empennage. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer which was twisted to the right. The right stabilator was twisted to the right, about parallel to the cabin fuselage. The trim tab, although crushed and distorted, remained attached to the stabilator.

Portions of wing structure, separated from the fuselage at the inboard end, was found extensively crushed and torn. It was lying just upslope from the fuselage, wedged into rock crevices.

Portions of the airplane structure, engine parts, and cargo were noted beyond the fuselage point of rest, and were scattered along the wreckage path in an upward direction along the face of the mountain. Portions of the airplane were scattered along the west face of the mountain for more than 300 yards in an inaccessible area of rocks.

The cargo net was located lying along the wreckage path on an outcropping of rock and tundra. It was torn and slightly burned and melted. The tundra under the net was also burned.

The upper cockpit roof structure was torn away from the fuselage. It was extensively crushed and distorted, lying about 150 yards southwest of the fuselage, along the wreckage path.

Portions of the engine sump, instrument panel, radios, and wing structure, were torn away from the fuselage. These came to rest about 200 feet down slope (north) of the fuselage. Numerous other portions of wreckage were scattered down slope of the main area of impact.

The propeller assembly was shattered. One propeller blade was found separated from the hub, lying among the rocks. It had a 180 degree aft bend, about 6 inches inboard from the tip. It had extensive leading edge destruction, trailing edge gouging, chordwise scratching, and "S" bending. The second blade was not located.

The engine was destroyed by impact. Portions of its external and internal components were scattered throughout the wreckage area. Several exhaust tubes were found along the wreckage path. They were extensively crushed and folded, producing sharp creases that were not cracked or broken along the creases. Some engine components were not found.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

A postmortem examination of the pilot was requested by Alaska State Troopers, and the NTSB IIC, but was not conducted. The Alaska State Medical Examiner received a request from the pilot's spouse, who is an officer in the company, not to have an autopsy. The medical examiner honored that request. The body of the pilot was cremated on September 6, 1999.

The medical examiner directed personnel at the Fairbanks Funeral Home, Fairbanks, to obtain a blood sample from the pilot before cremation. The medical examiner's office reported the blood sample was negative for alcohol. No other drug testing was conducted by the Alaska State medical examiner. No toxicological samples were submitted to the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI).

SEARCH AND RESCUE

An emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal was received by the U.S. Air Force Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, Anchorage, Alaska, at 1215. Search personnel reported that the mountain tops in the area of the ELT were obscured by fog and snow showers. An Alaska State Trooper coordinated the search, and recovery of the pilot from the wreckage. He reported the wreckage path extended for 1/4 of a mile along the mountain side.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

The pilot's Garmin GPS 95 global positioning system receiver was found in the wreckage. The case was shattered, but several circuit boards were intact. The receiver, although damaged, was sent to the manufacturer in an attempt to retrieve any position data. The manufacturer reported that the receiver was highly damaged, rendering data extraction impossible.

WRECKAGE RELEASE

The Safety Board released the wreckage, located at the accident site, to the owner's representatives on November 23, 1999.

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