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On July 8, 2000, approximately 1415 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 180F, N37GC, registered to and being flown by a private pilot, was destroyed during collision with trees and steeply upsloping terrain while in cruise flight approximately 3.5 nautical miles south of Gold Bar, Washington. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured and a post-crash fire consumed a portion of the aircraft. Meteorological conditions at the accident site were unknown and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was personal, was operated under 14CFR91, and originated from Arlington, Washington, approximately 1341 local time. The flight was initially destined across the Cascade Mountains for Spokane (Felts Field), Washington.
An acquaintance of the pilot, who flew from Spokane (Felts Field) to Arlington, in a Beechcraft, N419J, on the afternoon of July 7th, reported observing N37GC arriving at Arlington about 25 minutes later. The pilots of both aircraft socialized the evening of the 7th. On the following day both pilots met at the temporary flight service station. Records maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) showed that the pilot of the Cessna received a weather briefing at 1122 hours for a flight from Arlington to Spokane (refer to ATTACHMENT AT-I). No flight plan was filed.
The Cessna departed immediately before the Beechcraft. The pilot of the Beechcraft reported that the Cessna turned to an easterly heading after departing from runway 34. He also expected the Cessna to eventually turn southbound (downwind) but the aircraft continued eastbound into the direction of VFR arrivals inbound to Arlington, and towards lowering ceilings. Shortly thereafter the pilot of the Beechcraft lost visual contact with the Cessna (refer to attached STATEMENT OF PILOT N419J).
The US Air Force Rescue Coordination Center acquired raw radar data on a target four nautical miles east-northeast of the Arlington airport on the afternoon of the accident. The target was observed tracking initially southbound and then heading approximately 115 degrees magnetic. Estimated altitude information as well as time, latitude, and longitude were captured. The initial radar target was recorded at 1355:01 at an estimated altitude of 3,600 feet above mean sea level (MSL). A total of 44 radar hits were acquired with the last target at 1410:01, at an estimated elevation of 5,200 feet (refer to ATTACHMENT RD-I). This last target was approximately ten nautical miles east-southeast of the crash site.
The aircraft was initially reported as missing when it failed to arrive in the Spokane area on July 8th, and a search was initiated. The wreckage was located on the afternoon of July 12th, and an investigator from the Safety Board's Northwest Regional Office reached the accident site with a SAR team on the morning of July 13th.
The targets were plotted on a succession of charts (refer to ATTACHMENTS TRACK IA through IE), and showed the aircraft initially north-northeast of the Arlington airport tracking south to the vicinity of Frontier airpark, located several miles southeast of Arlington. The target then turned east-southeast passing slightly southwest of Granite Falls, Washington, and later, slightly northeast of Lake Chaplain. The target then continued east-southeast passing about two miles northeast of Gold Bar, Washington, (and about five miles northeast of the accident site) while generally paralleling U.S. Highway 2. The target's track then crossed U.S. Highway 2, still generally paralleling the highway and headed east-southeast, and the last target was noted about two miles southeast of Baring, Washington.
A logger working at a location approximately one-half mile northeast of the crash site on the afternoon of the accident reported hearing an aircraft between approximately 1400-1430 hours. He reported, "The aircraft came from the N.W. [northwest] and continued easterly. It turned and seemed to circle for a short time, then flew southwest." The "aircraft had a loud exhaust. As it was going southwest, the engine noise was fading away, then there was a noise (which I described as a backfire or a large rifle shot), then silence" (refer to attached WITNESS STATEMENT).
According to records maintained by the FAA, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on 03/12/91. He held an airplane single-engine land rating as well as an airframe and powerplant mechanic rating. He did not possess an instrument rating.
A copy of a single flight log was made available to the investigator-in-charge. This logbook contained the pilot's name and was designated logbook #1. The first flight entered in the logbook was dated 04/26/87, and the last flight entered was dated 06/25/00. During this 13-year interval, the pilot logged approximately 301 hours of flight time, of which approximately 217 hours were pilot-in-command, and 3 hours were instrument (hood only) time.
Additionally, the logbook contained a signoff for a "BFR" (bi-annual flight review) dated 12/08/99 and endorsed by a certified flight instructor (CFI). This CFI's certificate number matched that of the individual who was observed seated in the front right seat of the aircraft at the time of departure on the accident flight.
The accident aircraft, a Cessna 180F, serial number 18051290, was equipped with a Continental O-470-R, 230 horsepower engine. According to a witness, the aircraft was fueled at the midfield self-serve fueling pumps at Felts Field, Spokane, Washington, on the afternoon of July 7th.
No aircraft/powerplant logs were located for the aircraft. According to records maintained by Cessna, the aircraft was manufactured with standard fuel tanks (65 gallons, 60 gallons usable). The total amount of fuel aboard the aircraft at the time of the accident was not known.
Surface weather information for the afternoon of the accident was acquired from Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) locations as described below:
Bellingham, Washington, (67 nautical miles bearing 310 degrees magnetic from the site and located 166 feet above sea level) at 1353:
Ceiling 8,000 foot overcast, visibility 10 miles.
Arlington, Washington, (29 nautical miles bearing 300 degrees magnetic from the site and located 137 feet above sea level) at 1355:
Ceiling 2,000 foot broken, visibility 10 miles.
Everett, Washington, (24 nautical miles bearing 265 degrees magnetic from the site and located 606 feet above sea level) at 1353:
Ceiling 2,200 foot broken, visibility 10 miles.
Seattle (SEATAC), Washington, (32 nautical miles bearing 205 degrees magnetic from the site and located 429 feet above sea level) at 1353:
Ceiling 3,300 foot overcast, visibility 10 miles.
Renton, Washington, (28 nautical miles bearing 205 degrees magnetic from the site and located 29 feet above sea level) at 1353:
Ceiling 3,000 foot overcast, visibility 10 miles.
A logger located approximately one nautical mile north-northeast of the crash site approximately 1400 on the afternoon of the accident reported the following meteorological conditions at his location (refer to attached WITNESS STATEMENT):
"Poor visibility (overcast)" and "weather was extremely cloudy/foggy. Most of the day was fog on the ground. Visibility was varied: 100' - 1/4 mile. Some light rain." "The clouds/fog was heavy from 2,400' - 3,500' (crew members were working at these elevations). The tops of the ridges were fogged in from my observation point."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft crashed in heavily wooded, upsloping terrain approximately 3.5 nautical miles south of Gold Bar, Washington. The accident site coordinates were determined using a hand held Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and were recorded as 47 degrees 47.94 minutes north latitude, and 121 degrees 41.83 minutes west longitude. The elevation of the accident site was approximately 3,850 feet MSL (refer to CHART I).
The first evidence of impact was scarring noted on the trunks of several conifer trees slightly east-southeast of the ground impact site (refer to photograph 1). Smaller pieces of skin and the left main landing gear strut and wheel were observed captured in tree limbs. The left main landing gear was subsequently blown out of its tree during helicopter operations at the site. It was examined at the base of one of the east-southeasterly tree strikes (refer to photograph 2).
The aircraft was observed at the ground impact site on a +35 degree sloped ridgeline. The initial/final ground impact site was observed to be level with the tree strikes previously noted, and the magnetic bearing from the tree impacts to the ground impact site was measured as 299 degrees magnetic (refer to composite photograph 3). The axis of the ridgeline at the site was approximately 010/190 degrees magnetic (refer to CHART I).
The main fuselage, including the cockpit area aft of the engine and forward of the empennage, had been consumed by a post-crash fire (refer to photograph 4). The empennage, including the vertical stabilizer/rudder as well as the right horizontal stabilizer/elevator, was observed slightly uphill and west of the fuselage (refer to photograph 5). The right cabin door was located nearby. The engine was observed slightly downslope of the fuselage. Numerous fractures were noted in the forward crankcase as well as one of the rocker box covers (refer to photograph 6). The propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft and the propeller dome assembly was shattered with both propeller blades being loose within the hub assembly (refer to photograph 7). Both propeller blade tips were absent. One blade tip of approximately nine inches was missing, and its separation surface displayed aftward bending and twisting deformation (refer to photograph 8). The opposing blade tip of approximately three inches was also missing, and its separation surface displayed aftward bending and twisting deformation (refer to photograph 9). All three occupants were observed outside of the fuselage area and free of their seats.
The right wing was observed to be separated from the fuselage at the root area and the wing was torn into two separate sections at a point just outboard of the wing strut attach point. The inboard section, with its gas cap still in place, was observed slightly south of the empennage and displayed no fire damage. Its flap, which was jammed into a partially extended (20 degree down) position, remained attached and unmovable (refer to photograph 10). The inboard leading edge area of this wing section displayed a significant impact depression just forward of the gas cap. The impression penetrated aft to the wing spar. The radius of curvature of the depression was estimated to be more than several feet and the flattened impact surfaces of the wing contained bark and woody residue. The impact depression axis was noted to be roughly perpendicular to the bottom planar surface of the wing (refer to photograph 11). Substantial aftward deformation was noted at the outboard leading edge and spar area of this wing section, as well as the inboard section of the remaining separated portion of the right wing. The outboard section of the right wing was located slightly downslope of the engine. The right aileron remained attached (refer to photograph 12).
The left wing was observed to have been separated from the fuselage at the wing root area similar to the previously described right wing separation. However, the left wing remained continuous from root to tip exclusive of substantial leading edge damage in the root area. The left wing's gas cap had been torn out of the fuel tank and the rubber bladder within the tank was torn and split. Both the flap and the aileron remained attached and the flap was found to move from the full up to the extended position freely (refer to photograph 13). The outboard leading edge area of this wing (just outboard of the strut to the wing attach point) displayed a significant impact depression. Again, the impression penetrated aft to the wing spar, and was nearly flat. The flattened impact surfaces of the wing contained bark and woody residue. Again, the impact depression axis was noted to be roughly perpendicular to the bottom planar surface of the wing (refer to photograph 14).
The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were observed downslope directly below the initial tree impacts and near the left main landing gear. The leading edge of the stabilizer displayed extensive compressive deformation and much of the stabilizer material was absent. The elevator was torn in half approximately mid-span (refer to photograph 15). The left cabin door was found nearby.
Control cable continuity from the elevator and rudder as well as the stabilizer trim was established into the cockpit area. The aileron control cables were separated and the separated ends displayed "bird-nest" tangling. The flap cable separated ends displayed similar characteristics. The vacuum pump was found lying on the ground near the engine. The drive shaft and spline gear were intact and the pump spindle rotated producing suction when the drive shaft was turned by hand.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Norman Thiersch, M.D., conducted the post-mortem examination of the pilot at the facilities of the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office, Everett, Washington, on July 14, 2000, (case number SCME 00-1152).
The FAA's Toxicology Accident and Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological evaluation of samples from the pilot. The following findings from the report are quoted (refer to attached TOXICOLOGY report):
"VOLATILES: >> 10 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Kidney >> 51 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ETHANOL detected in Muscle >> 04 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ACETALDEHYDE detected in Kidney >> 03 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ACETALDEHYDE detected in Muscle >> 01 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Kidney >> 04 (mg/dL, mg/hg) N-PROPANOL detected in Muscle
-Notes: -The ethanol found in this case may potentially be from postmortem ethanol formation and not from the ingestion of ethanol.
DRUGS: >>PHENYLPROPANOLAMINE present in Kidney >>PHENYLPROPANOLAMINE present in Liver"
On-site examination of the wreckage was conducted on July 13, 2000, and the wreckage was verbally released to Mr. Brad Hernke, the insurance representative for USAIG, on the following day. Written wreckage release was accomplished on July 17, 2000, and was documented on NTSB form 6120.15 (attached).