On May 24, 2002, about 2315 Alaska daylight time, a wheel/ski-equipped Cessna 185 airplane, N80994, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain during takeoff from an off airport site, located on the Kahiltna Glacier, about 45 miles northwest of Talkeetna, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airplane was owned by Talkeetna Air Taxi, Inc., Talkeetna. The certificated airline transport pilot, and the four passengers aboard, were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a VFR flight plan was filed. The flight originated at the accident site about 2310, and was en route to the Talkeetna Airport, Talkeetna.

During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge on May 25, the pilot reported that he had utilized the airplane to fly three company employees to a mountain climbing base camp located at the 7,200 foot level of the Kahiltna Glacier. The pilot said that the purpose of the flight was to visit some friends at the base camp, and deliver a pizza to them. He added that while preparing for his return trip, he was asked to transport an additional passenger back to Talkeetna, and he agreed to do so. The pilot stated that due to terrain clearance, the standard takeoff run is to the southeast, and down-slope on a 1,500 foot long snow-covered glacial site. He said that prior to starting his takeoff run, he noted that there was a 3 to 5 knot tailwind. During the takeoff run, as the airplane neared the end of the site, the airplane became airborne, then settled onto the glacier. The airplane bounced three times and the right main landing gear collapsed. The airplane nosed over, and came to rest inverted, sustaining substantial damage to the wings, fuselage, and empennage. The pilot noted that after he exited the airplane, he discovered that the tailwind had increased to about 10 knots.

The pilot stated that there were no preaccident anomalies with the airplane.

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