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On September 3, 2002, at 1915 central daylight time, a Cessna TR182, N756WF, collided with the terrain while following high-tension power lines, in Tappen, North Dakota. The private pilot and the sole passenger on board were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by post impact fire. The Title 14 CFR Part 91 business flight was operating in visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The last leg of the flight departed from Bismarck, North Dakota, at 1830 and the intended destination was Fargo, North Dakota.
The purpose of the flight was to inspect the high-tension power lines and towers in preparation of bidding on a job to string fiber optic cables along the towers.
The airplane departed Rapid City, South Dakota, earlier in the day. On board at that time were the pilot and his wife. The flight proceeded to Pierre, South Dakota, where fuel was added and another passenger boarded the airplane. This second passenger was working with the pilot to inspect the lines. According to the pilot's wife, they started to follow and observe the power lines and towers upon reaching the area of Mobridge, South Dakota. The flight continued to Bismarck, North Dakota, where the pilot's wife deplaned. When checking in for his departure clearance, the pilot reported to the Bismarck Air Traffic Control Tower that they wanted to go back to the substation and they were going to fly the power lines over to Fargo. N756WF departed Bismarck at 1830 and radar services were terminated when the airplane was 20 miles east of the airport.
Several people reported seeing the airplane flying low and slow near the power lines, heading from the west to the east. One person located approximately 6 miles west of the accident site, reported that the airplane was flying along the south side of the lines, slightly below the height of the lower towers. No one reported witnessing the accident; however, several people reported seeing smoke in the distance. They proceeded to the source of the smoke and discovered that the airplane had crashed.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land and instrument ratings. He held a second-class medical certificate, which was issued on July 8, 2002. The last medical certificate contained the restriction "Must wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision."
The pilot reported having 3,900 hours of flight time on the application for his second-class medical certificate. According to the pilot's wife, he did not keep a logbook of his flight times. She stated that he kept his flight times on paper and that the paper would have been in the airplane. A notepad was found in the airplane that listed flights beginning in December 2001. According to the times listed, the airplane had been flown a total of 124.1 hours since December 3, 2001.
A co-worker of the pilot stated that he had been doing power line work for many years and that he had a lot of experience in flying along power lines. She was not sure whether or not the pilot had ever flown along these specific power lines in the past.
The airplane was a Cessna TR182, serial number R18201177. The last annual inspection was performed on August 20, 2002, at a tachometer time of 5374.2 hours. Records found in the airplane indicate that the tachometer time was 5386.6 hours when the airplane departed from Pierre, South Dakota, on the day of the accident. The airplane was fueled with 29.5 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel at Pierre, South Dakota. Records found in the airplane indicate this fuel topped off the tanks.
The engine was a 235 horsepower Lycoming O-540-L3C5D, serial number L-22065-0A. A 100-hour inspection was completed on the engine on August 20, 2002, at a tachometer time of 5374.2 hours. An engine logbook entry dated July 19, 2001, shows at tachometer time of 5167.3 hours and a time since major overhaul as 1479.8 hours.
The propeller was a two-bladed McCauley B2D34C217-A, serial number 793002. A 100-hour inspection on the propeller was completed on August 20, 2002. The propeller logbook indicates the propeller had a time since overhaul of 239.7 hours at the last 100-hour inspection.
The pilot's wife stated that she was not aware of any problems with the airplane during the portion of the flight that she was on board.
According to Federal Aviation Administration Aircraft Registration records, N756WF, was still registered to its previous owner. According to the previous owner, he sold the airplane to the pilot in 2001. The Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic who worked on the airplane stated that he performed a pre-buy inspection of the airplane and flew it from the east coast to South Dakota, when the pilot purchased the airplane. The A&P reported this occurred between July 7th and 15th, 2002.
A weather observation station, located at Jamestown, North Dakota, about 35 nautical miles east of the accident site recorded their 1856 observation as:
Wind: 140 degrees magnetic at 8 knots
Visibility: 10 statute miles
Sky Condition: Sky Clear
Temperature: 27 degrees Celsius
Dew Point: 16 degrees Celsius
Pressure: 29.94 inches of mercury
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) on-scene investigation began on September 4, 2001.
The main wreckage was located in an open pasture, which consisted of rolling hills. The site was located 2 miles east and one mile north of Interstate 94, exit 217. A global positioning system (GPS) receiver recorded the position of the main wreckage as 46.53.617' north latitude, and 99.31.936' west longitude. The accident site was at a location where one set of high tension power lines cross over another, making a near 90 degree turn in direction.
The general path of the scattered aircraft wreckage was on a heading of 162 degrees. The main wreckage came to rest on a heading of 285 degrees. Pieces of green navigation light lens were found in the initial impact mark. Approximately 39 feet after the first impact mark was another mark along with a slice in the terrain. Lateral to this mark was an impact mark, which contained pieces of a wingtip navigation light/strobe light assembly along with red glass. The main wreckage was located approximately 96 feet past the slice in the terrain. The terrain was scorched and burned between the initial impact point and the main wreckage.
The airplane from the engine to a point aft of the rear seats was consumed by fire. Both wings sustained extensive fire damage and were burned away from the fuselage. They were located in their respective positions alongside the main wreckage. The outboard tip of the right horizontal stabilizer and elevator sustained impact damage and were bent upward. The rest of the rudder, vertical stabilizer, elevator, and horizontal stabilizer remained intact. Aileron, elevator, and rudder flight control continuity was established from the flight control surfaces and/or bellcranks to the cockpit. The flap jackscrew was measured to be 3.7 inches, which equates to 20 degrees of flap extension. The elevator trim actuator was measured to be 1.5 inches, equating to 6 degrees of tab up trim.
The fire destroyed all cockpit instrumentation, the fuel selector, and all of the engine controls.
The engine sustained substantial impact and fire damage. It was mostly separated from the engine mounts and the firewall. The bottom of the engine case was burned away so that the portions of the camshaft, crankshaft, and counter weights were visible. Part of the accessory case was burned away. The dual magneto, engine driven fuel pump, and carburetor were consumed by fire. The vacuum pump, hydraulic pump, and oil filter were in place. They sustained substantial fire damage. The turbocharger wastegate was closed. The linkage from the wastegate to the carburetor throttle plate was intact.
The propeller was attached to the engine with the propeller spinner burned away. A portion of both propeller blades was melted away. Both propeller blades were bent aft and twisted.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the North Dakota Department of Health, Bismarck, North Dakota, on September 4, 2002.
A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for the pilot. The toxicology results showed the presence of Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine, and Phenylpropanolamine in the urine samples.
Ephedrine is the active ingredient found in over-the-counter decongestants, allergy medications, asthma medications, and diet pills.
Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient found in common over-the-counter decongestants, such as Sudafed.
Phenylpropanolamine is a metabolite of Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine. It is an over-the-counter decongestant and appetite suppressant.
The pilot's wife stated that her husband was flying the airplane from the left seat and the passenger was in the right seat. She stated the passenger was looking at papers and taking notes during the flight. She was not sure what the papers were.
The pilot's wife stated that between Mobridge and Bismarck, they were following one set of power lines. She stated that they were flying so that the power lines were off the right (passenger) side of the airplane. The only other power lines she saw were off in the distance.
The airplane was following a set of high-tension lines, owned by Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), that run eastbound from Bismarck, along Interstate 94. Another set of power lines, owned by Great River Energy, coming from the northwest, join up east of Dawson, North Dakota, and parallel on the north side of the WAPA lines. The two sets of lines diverge at the accident site with the Great River Energy lines turning toward the south across the airplane's flight path. (See attached plots and drawings.)
The bid paperwork that was forwarded to the NTSB from the pilot's company did not show the intersecting power lines. WAPA provided a supplemental plan profile to the NTSB, which did show the intersecting lines. It is not known if the pilot had the plan profile. The North Dakota Aeronautical Chart and the Twin Cities Sectional both show the intersecting power lines. The pilot's wife stated that she did not recall the pilot using any maps or charts during the portion of the flight when she was on board.
Both sets of lines were inspected and there was no indication that the airplane had contacted any of the towers or the power lines.
Parties to the NTSB investigation included the FAA, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Textron Lycoming Engines.
The wreckage was released to a representative of AIG Aviation Insurance on September 12, 2002.