SEA99FA176
SEA99FA176

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On May 28, 1999, at 1236 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 152 airplane, N714UZ, registered to and operated by Felts Field Aviation, Spokane, Washington, departed Felts Field in Spokane on a planned 1 hour and 30 minute 14 CFR 91 local instructional flight with a student pilot and a certificated flight instructor (CFI, who was an airline transport pilot and the pilot-in-command of the flight) aboard. When the aircraft failed to return to Felts Field, a search was initiated, but the search failed to locate the missing aircraft and authorities suspended the search on June 8, 1999. The aircraft remained missing until July 24, 2001, when the aircraft wreckage was discovered by chance in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest approximately 15 nautical miles northeast of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, by a U.S. Forest Service employee performing routine duties in the area. Both aircraft occupants were found to have been fatally injured, and the aircraft had been destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire. Visual meteorological conditions were reported at Coeur d'Alene at 1255 on the day of the disappearance. The aircraft was not on a flight plan, and there was no report of any emergency locator transmitter (ELT) activation associated with the accident aircraft.

According to officials at Felts Field Aviation, the flight was supposed to be a final opportunity for the student pilot to hone his skills prior to taking the checkride to earn his private pilot certificate. Air traffic control (ATC) radar recorded a 1200 beacon code track departing Felts Field at 1236 and tracking generally eastbound toward the accident site. The last recorded radar position for this track was at 1306:22, at 4,700 feet altitude at 47 degrees 48.73 minutes North latitude and 116 degrees 30.33 minutes West longitude, about 12 miles northeast of Coeur D'Alene. The last radar position was also about 1 1/4 nautical miles south-southwest of an abandoned airstrip known as Horse Haven (also depicted on some maps as Horse Heaven.) Witnesses reported to search authorities that "a little after 1300" on May 28, a small aircraft made a low pass over the Horse Haven airstrip (elevation approximately 3,020 feet) and departed the area to the north. There were no further confirmed sightings.

The last radar contact with the 1200 beacon code, and the witness sightings of an aircraft at Horse Haven airstrip, occurred during the hours of daylight. The crash site was located at approximately 47 degrees 51.1 minutes North latitude and 116 degrees 28.5 minutes West longitude.


PERSONNEL INFORMATION

The FAA airman database gave the instructor's weight as 195 pounds, and the student's weight as 186 pounds.


AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to the aircraft delivery documents (supplied by Cessna Aircraft Company), the aircraft was delivered new with standard fuel tanks of 26-gallon (24.5 gallons usable) total fuel capacity. At the time of delivery, the aircraft's basic empty weight was listed in the aircraft delivery documents as 1,153.7 pounds, its center of gravity (CG) was 29.8 inches aft of datum, and its empty moment was 34,405 inch-pounds. According to Idaho Department of Transportation search-and-rescue (SAR) mission logs, the airplane's fuel tanks were three-quarters full at takeoff. The aircraft's maximum takeoff weight was 1,670 pounds.

According to performance estimates supplied by Cessna, the aircraft, when at its maximum takeoff weight and best-angle-of-climb airspeed of 55 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS), is capable of climbing at a maximum climb angle of 5.0 degrees above horizontal at 3,000 feet pressure altitude and a temperature of 20 degrees C, and at a maximum climb angle of 4.5 degrees above horizontal at 4,000 feet pressure altitude and temperature of 18 degrees C.


METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Salt Lake City, Utah, Area Forecast (FA) issued May 28, 1999, at 1245 and valid for clouds and weather until May 29, 1999, at 0100, forecast conditions for northern Idaho as scattered clouds at 12,000 feet and 15,000 feet, with widely scattered thunderstorms and light rain showers with cumulonimbus tops to flight level (FL) 300 until 2100.

The 1255 hourly automated METAR weather observation at Coeur d'Alene Air Terminal (COE, elevation 2,318 feet above sea level), Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, approximately 14 nautical miles west-southwest of the accident site, reported conditions there as winds from 270 degrees true at 8 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 22 degrees C, dewpoint 1 degree C, and altimeter setting 29.97 inches Hg.

The winds and temperatures aloft (FD) forecast issued May 28, 1999, at 0940, valid at 1100 and for use from 1000 to 1400, forecast winds at Spokane, Washington, from 320 degrees true at 7 knots with temperature of 7 degrees C at 6,000 feet above sea level, and from 260 degrees true at 14 knots with temperature of 1 degree C at 9,000 feet above sea level. Winds aloft at Kalispell, Montana were forecast to be from 290 degrees true at 7 knots with temperature of 11 degrees C at 6,000 feet above sea level, and from 260 degrees true at 17 knots with temperature of 3 degrees C at 9,000 feet above sea level.


WRECKAGE AND IMPACT DATA

Investigators from the NTSB, FAA, Cessna Aircraft Company, and engine manufacturer Textron Lycoming responded to the accident site and performed an on-site examination of the aircraft wreckage on July 26, 2001. The wreckage was located in a densely wooded area in the Silver Run draw, approximately 2 nautical miles north-northeast of the Horse Haven airstrip. (NOTE: The Silver Run draw drains into Iron Creek, which in turn flows adjacent to the Horse Haven airstrip; the airstrip is located generally at the confluence of Iron Creek and the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.) The wreckage elevation was measured by Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment as 3,610 feet, and by barometric altimeter as 3,640 feet. The forest cover in the area extended to an estimated height of 200 feet. The only tree damage noted by investigators was located generally directly above the aircraft wreckage. Both wings (with lift struts attached), the aircraft's tailcone and empennage, the landing gear, and the nose of the aircraft from the cabin firewall forward were located together in an area not exceeding approximately one normal wingspan of the aircraft. The left wing was wedged into trees in a leading-edge-down orientation, with the wing chord line in a generally vertical direction. The center (cabin) section of the aircraft, including the instrument panel, was located between the left and right wings and had been largely consumed by fire, with only steel components in this area such as control cables/linkage and seat frames surviving. Fire damage was also noted to the engine area, both wings and the tailcone/empennage. The right wing was adjacent to the cabin area, resting flat on the sloping ground in an upright orientation. The aircraft's flaps were up. The tailcone was resting adjacent to the cabin area in a nearly vertical, "nose-up" orientation.

The aircraft's propeller remained attached to the engine crankshaft. One of the aircraft's propeller blades was buried in the ground, and upon being unearthed exhibited slight forward and "S" type bending and scratching at approximately a 20-degree angle to the hub-to-tip line on both sides of the blade. The other blade, found sticking up from the hub, exhibited very slight "S" bending. Some branches with saw-type cuts were found adjacent to the wreckage.

Examination of the aircraft's flight controls and engine disclosed no evidence of any pre-impact aircraft or engine malfunctions.


FIRE

A post-crash fire consumed most of the center (cabin) section of the aircraft, including the instrument panel. Post-crash fire also damaged the engine area, both wings, and the tailcone/empennage structure, and scorched trees in the immediate vicinity of the crash site. During the on-site examination, investigators examined the aircraft wreckage for evidence of inflight fire and none was found.


MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Only skeletal remains of the aircraft occupants were recovered. As such, no autopsies or toxicology tests were conducted.


SURVIVAL ASPECTS

The aircraft was not on a flight plan; however, when the aircraft failed to return to Felts Field, authorities were notified and a search was initiated. Search-and-rescue (SAR) operations commenced on or about May 29, 1999, as a multi-state (Washington and Idaho) SAR mission under the jurisdiction of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The search involved ground and air search assets of the Washington State Aeronautics Division, Washington and Idaho wings of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), Idaho Transportation Department Aeronautics Division, a U.S. Air Force helicopter, a commercial MedStar aerial ambulance helicopter, and the Kootenai County, Idaho, Sheriff's Office. According to Idaho Transportation Department mission logs, a concentrated search effort was conducted in the Horse Haven area during the mission on the basis of the ATC radar track and witness reports. Despite this effort, the mission did not succeed in locating the aircraft and the AFRCC suspended the search on June 8, 1999.

During their on-site investigation, investigators did not observe any campfire remnants, improvised shelters, ground-to-air distress signals, survival journals or logs, or other evidence of prolonged post-crash aircraft occupant survival in the vicinity of the wreckage. The aircraft's ELT was not identified in the wreckage.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Idaho Department of Transportation SAR mission logs recorded a report from one search pilot who had searched the area north of the Horse Haven airstrip, in which the search pilot described the terrain in that area as "very inhospitable." According to the log entry, the search pilot reported his belief that a Cessna 152 operating in the area "would be hard pressed on performance-marginal [at] best." It was not determined what route the aircraft flew after departing Horse Haven airstrip. However, following the aircraft's discovery, the NTSB investigator-in-charge subsequently constructed terrain elevation profiles using DeLorme 3-D TopoQuads software for three possible paths from the northeast end of the Horse Haven airstrip to the crash site, identified as Route 1, Route 2, and Route 3. Route 1 proceeded from the airstrip up Iron Creek to Silver Run, then turned up Silver Run draw to the crash site. Route 2 proceeded from the airstrip up Iron Creek to Rusty Creek, then turned up Rusty Creek draw and, at the top of Rusty Creek draw, proceeded over a ridge spine to the crash site. Route 3 was the direct route from the northeast end of Horse Haven airstrip to the crash site. Computation of terrain climb gradients based on the terrain elevation profiles on each of these routes (with tree heights disregarded) disclosed that on Route 1, the average climb gradient from the airstrip to the crash site was approximately 3.1 degrees, with a maximum climb gradient up Silver Run draw (approximately the last 3/4 mile along the route to the crash site) of approximately 7.5 degrees. On Route 2, the average terrain rise from the airstrip to the peak elevation along the route was approximately 5.4 degrees, with a maximum terrain rise during an approximately 0.9-nautical-mile segment approaching the peak elevation on the route of about 9.7 degrees. Route 3, the direct route from the airstrip to the crash site, had a maximum terrain rise of approximately 8.7 degrees during the first 3/4 nautical mile past the airstrip, with a climb gradient of 4.7 degrees from 3/4 mile past the airstrip to the peak terrain elevation along the route.

The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. W. Ed Greager, branch claims manager for AIG Aviation, Brea, California, on February 14, 2002. AIG Aviation is the insurance company for Felts Field Aviation.

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