DEN01FA028
DEN01FA028

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On December 15, 2000, approximately 1750 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172 airplane, N4223F, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain approximately 11 miles east-northeast of Lusk, Wyoming. The non-instrument rated private pilot, who was the registered owner and operator, and his passenger received fatal injuries. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight departed Casper, Wyoming at 1628 and was destined for Rapid City, South Dakota.

At 1624, the pilot of N4223F contacted Casper ground control requesting taxi for an east departure. The pilot was advised to taxi to runway 21; however, the pilot taxied to Alpha 6 intersection of runway 21. The ground controller advised the pilot he could have an intersection departure or turn right and taxi for a full length departure. The pilot requested an intersection departure from Alpha 6. At 1627, the local controller (tower) cleared N4223F to takeoff with a left turn to the east. At 1631, the controller asked the pilot if the aircraft was transponder equipped. The pilot replied the aircraft was equipped with a transponder. The controller instructed the pilot to squawk 1200.

Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) radar data showed N4223F climbing to 8,000 feet msl. At 1705, in the area of the Iberlin Ranch Airport (WY02), Bill, Wyoming, N4223F turned southeast and descended to 5,900 feet. At 1730, approximately 10 to 12 nautical miles south of the Lusk Airport (LSK), the airplane turned north-northeast and passed approximately 3 to 4 miles east of the Lusk Municipal Airport. The airplane continued to the northeast for about 5 miles, made a 180 degree turn and flew for about 3 miles before making a right 180 degree turn back to the northeast. The airplane then flew approximately 3 miles and turned right about 90 degrees to an easterly direction. On this heading the airplane flew about 3 miles before making a left 200 degree turn to the northwest. The last two radar hits showed the airplane making a right turn to the north. The last radar hit was at 1745:42, at an altitude of 5,700 feet msl (about 700 feet agl).

The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) activated and the local authorities were notified. The airplane wreckage was located on the morning of December 16, 2000; however, the accident investigation team did not visit the site until May 1, 2001, because of deep snow drifts.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to FAA records, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate on January 8, 1997, with an airplane single-engine land rating. The pilot's flight logbook was not located, therefore, the date of his last biennial flight review and time in make and model of the accident airplane could not be determined. FAA records indicate the pilot reported having accrued 195.0 total flight hours and 65 hours in the previous six months on his application for a class three medical certificate, dated November 23, 1998. The medical certificate stipulated a limitation to wear corrective lenses while operating an aircraft.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The 1958-model, red on white, Cessna 172, (serial number 17246123), was a high wing, single-engine airplane, with fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane was powered by a 145-horsepower Continental O-300-A engine (serial number 14017-D-8-A), and was equipped with a 2-bladed McCauley fixed pitch propeller. According to the airframe and engine logbooks, the airplane underwent its most recent annual and 100-hour inspection on November 18, 2000, at a total aircraft time of 4,429.31 hours (tachometer time 729.81), and engine total time of 4,429.31 total hours, of which 1,767.114 hours were since major overhaul. The tachometer found at the accident site indicated 739.60 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

At 0950, the pilot received a weather briefing from Huron Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) for a flight from Rapid City, South Dakota, to Casper, Wyoming. There was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing for the return flight to Rapid City.

According to the Casper AFSS, at the time of the accident, low ceilings and visibilities were becoming widespread across eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota and Nebraska behind a southward moving cold front.

According to the Niobrara County Sheriff, at the time of the accident, the weather in the area of Lusk was blizzard conditions, making it hard even for surface vehicles to maneuver. The wind was gusting to 65 mph, visibility was down to about 1,000 feet, and the ceiling was "very low."

There were no official National Weather Service (NWS) weather reporting stations in Lusk, Wyoming, therefore, the weather observations at surrounding area airports with observing systems were documented.

Converse County Airport (DGW), located 58 miles west of the accident site, reported at 1753, wind 270 degrees at 20 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature -1 degrees C, dew point -9 degrees C, altimeter 29.64 inches of mercury (Hg).

DGW reported at 1837, wind from 320 degrees at 28 knots gusting to 43 knots, visibility 1 3/4 statute miles in light snow and mist, scattered clouds at 2,100 feet and 2,800 feet, ceiling 5,500 feet broken, temperature -3 degrees C, dew point -5 degrees C, altimeter 29.72 inches of mercury (Hg).

Chadron Municipal Airport (CDR), located 58 miles east of the accident site, reported at 1753, wind 010 degrees at 10 knots, visibility 3/4 statute mile in light snow and mist, ceiling 800 feet broken and 3,900 feet overcast, temperature -2 degrees C, dew point -2 degrees C, altimeter 29.66 inches of mercury (Hg).

CDR reported at 1818, wind variable at 4 knots, visibility 2 statute miles in light snow and mist, ceiling 600 feet broken, temperature -2 degrees C, dew point -2 degrees C, altimeter 29.68 inches of mercury (Hg).

Torrington Municipal Airport (TOR), located 49 miles south of the accident site, reported at 1753, wind 290 degrees at 20 knots gusting to 28 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling 8,500 feet overcast, temperature -2 degrees C, dew point -8 degrees C, altimeter 29.63 inches of mercury (Hg).

TOR reported at 1853, wind from 280 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling 7,000 broken and 9,000 feet overcast, temperature -2 degrees C, dew point -8 degrees C, altimeter 29.68 inches of mercury (Hg).

Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP), located 104 miles northeast of the accident site, reported at 1755, wind 340 degrees at 21 knots gusting to 26 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, ceiling 7,000 feet broken and 10,000 feet overcast, temperature 0 degrees C, dew point -4 degrees C, altimeter 29.61 inches of mercury (Hg).

RAP reported at 1855, wind from 330 degrees at 31 knots gusting to 40 knots, visibility 5 statute miles in light snow, ceiling 4,400 feet overcast, temperature -3 degrees C, dew point -6 degrees C, altimeter 29.70 inches of mercury (Hg).

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department, sunset at Lusk, Wyoming was 1625, and end civil twilight was 1657.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was located using a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver at 42 degrees 47 minutes 06 seconds north latitude and 104 degrees 137 minutes 02 seconds west longitude. The accident site was about 8.43 nautical miles east-northeast of the Lusk Municipal Airport.

The airplane impacted rolling terrain at an elevation of 5,100 feet msl. The wreckage distribution path was approximately 338 feet long, running down the shallow slope of a hill. The airplane came to rest on its left side facing back up the wreckage distribution path. The nose section and cockpit were substantially damaged, and the engine was separated from the firewall. The left wing was separated from the fuselage and was located 241 feet from the initial impact point. The right wing was separated from the fuselage but remained attached by cables. The empennage remained attached to the fuselage by flight control cables, and the rear of the fuselage was on top of the right horizontal stabilizer. All flight control were accounted for, and all flight control cables and rods were attached to their respective flight controls and cockpit controls. Some intermediate cable separations, typical of tensile overload, were observed on the flap and aileron systems.

The engine was located about 40 feet beyond the main wreckage and was found upside down. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft and the spinner was crushed aft. One propeller blade was bent aft approximately 10 degrees. Longitudinal scratching and polishing were noted, and no leading edge damage or chordwise scratching were noted. The other propeller blade was bent back around the side of the engine and exhibited twisting. There was leading edge damage, and chordwise scratching and polishing was noted on the tip.

The engine was disassembled under the supervision of the NTSB investigator-in-charge at the facility of Beegle's Aircraft Service of Greeley, Colorado, on May 9, 2001. No pre-impact anomalies were noted during the examination.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, conducted an autopsy of the pilot. Toxicological testing was performed by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute's (CAMI) Forensic Toxicology and Accident Research Center at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicological tests were positive for tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marihuana). The testing revealed 0.006 (ug/ml, ug/g) tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marihuana) detected in blood and 0.11 (ug/ml, ug/g) tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marihuana) detected in urine.

ADDITIONAL DATA

The aircraft wreckage was to the owner's representative on August 1, 2002.

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