On October 28, 2002, about 2000 Alaska standard time, a Cessna 207 airplane, N91090, sustained substantial damage when it collided with terrain during cruise flight, about four miles southeast of Marshall, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by Grant Aviation Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, as a visual flight rules (VFR) positioning flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, at the time of the accident. The solo commercial pilot received serious injuries. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight originated at the Marshall Airport about 1955, and was bound for Bethel, Alaska. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The accident airplane departed the 'new' Marshall airport (MLL). The 'old' Marshall airport (MLL) was decommissioned several days earlier. The new airport is 3 miles east-northeast of the old airport, and was not yet depicted on current navigation charts, nor listed in the current United States Government Flight Information Publication, Alaska Supplement.
When the flight failed to arrive at Bethel, a search was initiated. On October 29, about 0100, search personnel located the wreckage about 4 miles southeast of Marshall. The airplane was located about 1,200 feet msl, on the north side of a ridgeline that runs generally east to west. The ridge has a summit elevation of 1,714 feet msl.
The airplane was equipped with Capstone navigation and terrain avoidance avionics. The Capstone equipment uses GPS mapping technology and aircraft position information, in conjunction with a multifunction display in the instrument panel, to graphically represent the aircraft's position relative to terrain. Terrain that comes within set parameters for altitude and horizontal distance is displayed in color bands. Terrain depicted within the red color band is intended to warn the pilot of the close proximity of terrain to the aircraft.
During a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), on November 4, the pilot said he departed Marshall on runway 07, and made a climbing right turn at 80 knots indicated airspeed toward Bethel. He said the vertical speed indicator read in excess of 1,000 feet per minute rate of climb, that it was a very dark night, and there were no visible horizon or ground references discernible. He said his route was direct to Bethel at 1,200 to 1,400 feet msl, and that upon reaching his cruise altitude, there was a strong headwind and turbulence. He said just prior to impacting the terrain, his vertical speed indicator showed a high rate of descent, and his Capstone display was almost completely red. He further stated the airplane's GPS had not been reprogrammed to reflect the location changes for the old Marshall airport and the new Marshall airport. The pilot said he had made one flight into the old Marshall airport, and this was his second flight into the new Marshall airport. This was the first flight when he departed either airport after dark. He said there were no preimpact mechanical anomalies with the airplane.
Direct flight from either Marshall airport to Bethel requires crossing an east-west ridgeline on the north side of the Yukon River. The direct route from the old Marshall airport to Bethel crosses the western foot of the ridgeline at a point with an elevation of less than 500 feet msl. The direct route from the new airport to Bethel crosses the ridge at a point where the elevation of the ridge exceeds 1,200 feet msl.
During a telephone conversation with the NTSB IIC on November 6, the pilot of the Army helicopter that located the accident airplane said their initial attempts to locate the missing airplane were futile. He said they then flew to the new Marshall airport and attempted to recreate the accident flight by taking off into the wind, conducting a right down wind departure replicating the performance of the Cessna 207, and heading direct to Bethel. He said when they reached the ridgeline on the north side of the Yukon River they headed east up the ridge toward the summit (1,704 msl). They located the accident airplane within minutes at 1,200 feet msl. He said the airplane impacted near the crest of the ridge, with a shallow angle of attack. He also stated that all the major airframe components sustained substantial damage, and the engine had separated from the airplane. The helicopter pilot said after they landed he noted that the wind was strong out of the northeast, with gusts above 40 knots. He said during the time they were searching for the accident airplane they did not encounter turbulence.
The weather forecast for the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta area at the time of the accident was scattered clouds at 3,500 feet msl, occasional broken clouds at 3,500 to 6,000 feet msl, with an outlook for VFR and windy conditions. The freezing level was at 1,500 feet msl, and no turbulence was forecast.
During the accident sequence the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) did not activate. The injured pilot removed the ELT from its holder, and took it with him into the empennage where he sheltered himself from the weather. He was not aware the ELT was not transmitting. Rescue personnel recovered the pilot and the ELT. The ELT was released to the operator who proceeded to functionally test the ELT until it activated. It is unknown why the ELT did not operate upon impact.