On March 7, 2000, at 1649 central standard time, a Cessna 172M airplane, N20179, struck power lines while maneuvering near Manilla, Arkansas. The airplane was owned and operated by the pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The private pilot and the pilot rated passenger received minor injuries, and the second passenger was not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight, and a flight plan was not filed. The round robin flight originated from the West Memphis Municipal Airport, West Memphis, Arkansas, with an en route stop at the Blytheville Municipal Airport, Blytheville, Arkansas. The flight departed the Blytheville Municipal Airport approximately 1630 for the return flight to West Memphis, Arkansas.

During a telephone interview, and on the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2), the pilot-in-command reported to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) that approximately 18 miles south of Blytheville, he descended the airplane for the right front seat passenger to view Mallard Lake and the surrounding Big Lake Wildlife Management Area to look for bass fishing spots. The last altitude the pilot recalled reading on the altimeter was 800 feet. While maneuvering the airplane, "a loud thud was encountered followed by a pitch down in attitude: aircraft began to vibrate and throttle had to be retarded to prevent engine from breaking loose from airframe." The pilot flew the airplane toward a flat area for the forced landing. The flat area was a soft plowed field, and during the landing roll, the nose landing gear collapsed and the airplane flipped to the inverted position. The pilot reported that there was damage to the vertical stabilizer, propeller, and nose landing gear. He further stated that oil was running from the engine cowling.

During a telephone interview, the right front seat passenger reported to the NTSB IIC that after flying low over the lake and the surrounding area, the pilot climbed the airplane over a tree line. Subsequently, the passenger heard a noise, the airplane started shaking, and the airplane's nose went down. The pilot added power and landed the airplane in the soft plowed terrain. The nose landing gear collapsed during the landing roll, and the airplane flipped to the inverted position. After exiting the airplane, the passenger saw the power line. The passenger stated that the power line was not visible before the pilot pulled the airplane up over the tree line, and the airplane struck the power line. On the Passenger Statement (NTSB Form 6120.9), he stated that the "pilot was flying in a manner that was not safe."

During a telephone interview, and on the Passenger Statement (NTSB Form 6120.9), the right aft seat pilot rated passenger reported that the airplane was owned by the pilot-in-command, and the airplane was based at the West Memphis Municipal Airport. The flight departed Blytheville for the aerial survey of Mallard Lake. After circling the lake, the pilot rated passenger told the pilot to pick up a heading of 170 back to West Memphis. The pilot rated passenger is a duck hunter and was looking for ducks when he heard a "thump and then suddenly the aircraft pitched down. The engine rpm's increased as evidenced by an increase in engine noise, and within seconds the aircraft pitched back up again and began to shake violently." He further reported that the "engine noise lessened and the airplane began to sink to the ground." The airplane touched down in a cotton field and rolled into a soft cultivated field where it nosed over. This passenger stated that the pilot made "an error in judgement."

During telephone interviews, representatives of the power company reported to the NTSB IIC that a power outage occurred at 1649. Examination of the site (4.3 statute miles south of the Manilla Airport, Manilla, Arkansas) by power company personnel revealed that the two shield wires above the 500,000 volt lines were down. The "propeller hub [spinner] was found dead center of the two shield wires and lying under the lines. Cable marks were visible on the hub." The height of the lines was approximately 120 feet agl. The airplane was found inverted in a plowed field, approximately 1/2 mile from the unmarked power lines.

The FAA inspector responding to the site found the red and white airplane inverted in the cotton field. The rudder and vertical stabilizer were bent and crushed. The throttle and mixture controls in the cockpit were found in the full forward position. The propeller blades exhibited gouges and the outboard 4 inches of one blade was separated. One of the propeller blades exhibited several impressions consistent with the diameter of the power line cable strands. Flight control continuity was confirmed. Tree height was estimated at 75 to 100 feet in the vicinity of the power line.

The airplane was recovered from the accident site and stored at Air Salvage of Dallas, at Lancaster, Texas. At the request of the NTSB IIC, the engine manufacturer photographed the propeller and the portion of the spinner that remained attached to the aircraft.

On May 19, 2000, the propeller spinner and the shield wires, secured from the power company, were examined by the NTSB IIC at the South Central Regional Office, Arlington, Texas. The spinner exhibited physical impressions consistent with the diameter of the shield wire cable strands. Red paint transfers were noted on portions of the cable.

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