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On Sunday, March 28, 2004, approximately 1730 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 182Q, N96719, impacted the west slope of Three Fingered Jack Mountain, about seven miles northeast of Santiam Junction, Oregon. The private pilot and his two passengers received fatal injuries, and the aircraft, which is owned by Golden Valley Farms, and operated by the pilot, sustained substantial damage. The local 14 CFR Part 91 personal pleasure flight, which departed Bend Municipal Airport, Bend, Oregon, about 20 minutes earlier, was being operated in visual meteorological conditions. No flight plan had been filed. There was no report of an ELT activation.
On the day of the accident, the pilot and one passenger departed McNary Field, Salem, Oregon, at 1242. Recorded radar tracking data (NTAP) shows that after a northerly takeoff, the aircraft turned to a southeasterly heading and proceeded on a nearly direct ground track to a point just northwest of Mount Bachelor (44 00 51.6 North -121 41 03.2 West), where radar contact was lost at 1323. About that same time (reported as between 1315 and 1330) a private pilot-rated witness, who was skiing at the Mount Bachelor Ski Area, saw a light-colored Cessna 182 arrive in the area from the west, and begin a series of maneuvers in "close proximity" to the mountain. According to this individual, the aircraft circled Mount Bachelor above the tree line, but below the peak (9,080 feet), at an altitude that was estimated to be between 7,500 feet and 8,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL). During this process, the aircraft maneuvered in a manner that kept it "very close" to the terrain. He said that the aircraft was "unusually close" to the mountain, and that it was climbing at a slow airspeed at what sounded like a high power setting. He said he watched the aircraft as it flew by the north side of the peak going from west to east. After passing the north side of the mountain, the aircraft entered a right descending turn and began to accelerate. According to the witness, during the time it was descending, it sounded like the aircraft was at a very reduced power setting. It then circled on around the mountain and repeated the "unusual maneuver" again. The aircraft then departed the area.
During the investigation it was determined that the pilot eventually landed at Sunriver Airport, which is about 12 miles further southeast of Mount Bachelor. While there, he and his passenger had lunch, and sometime after 1600, the aircraft departed Sunriver and flew to Bend Municipal Airport, Bend, Oregon (about 17 miles to the north of Sunriver). When the aircraft eventually departed Bend, with the pilot and two passengers on board, it flew northwest toward Black Butte (about 25 miles northwest of Bend), where radar tracking data shows that it crossed over State Highway 20, and turned north along the eastern slope of the ridge that extents south from Mount Jefferson. After flying to the north about nine miles, to a point just south of Rockpile Mountain, the aircraft turned left (west), flew over the ridge, and headed south along the upper part of the westerly slope of the same ridge. When the aircraft reached a position approximately one-half mile north of Three Fingered Jack, a pinnacle about four miles north of Highway 20, it began another turn to the left (toward the east), ultimately bringing it to a position where it was heading perpendicular to the ridgeline. The last recorded radar contact with the aircraft showed that it was about 6,500 feet MSL, at 44 degrees, 28 minutes, 23.3 seconds North, 121 degrees, 51 minutes, 05.8 seconds West, and later that evening, when the flight did not return as expected, family members contacted authorities.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
About 1500 the next day, the aircraft wreckage was located approximately 150 feet below the top of the ridge, at the 6,800 foot level of the westerly slope of Three Fingered Jack. The aircraft was laying on top of the snow at 44 degrees, 28.43 minutes North, 121 degrees, 50.84 minutes West. Its fuselage was on a heading of 232 degrees magnetic. The down-slope angle of the terrain was approximately 30 degrees, and the aircraft's nose was inclined downward about 40 degrees into the snow (70 degrees below the horizon). Except for a piece of Plexiglas, and a small section of fuselage skin, both of which were found nearby, the entire wreckage was found essentially intact at this one location. The fuselage was buckled and torn just aft of the rear seat, and most of the empennage showed very little damage. The lower leading edge of the left wing was crushed up and aft fairly consistently along its entire span. The right wing leading edge was crushed up and aft at about a 20 degree angle from a point directly forward of the center of the flap span, all the way to the end of its tip. The belly skin on the forward portion of the fuselage, from just aft of the nose bowl to the lift-strut attach bulkhead, had been forced up and aft in a manner similar to the hydraulic skin damage seen in water impacts.
After being removed from the accident site, the aircraft was taken to Independence, Oregon, where it underwent a teardown inspection. During that inspection airframe structural integrity and flight control continuity were confirmed. All three propeller blades were bent aft at angles between 35 and 50 degrees, starting at about one-third of their span. Although there were no chord-wise scars on the blades, the leading edge of one of the blades had a row of deep gouges over a five inch section just inboard of its mid-span point. When the propeller was rotated counter-clockwise, that blade came to a position where the rocker cover, the forward rocker, and a portion of the forward rocker boss had been torn from the number six cylinder (front cylinder on the left side). The gouges on this blade were consistent with it impacting this area of the cylinder during normal rotation.
An inspection of the Aero Engines P. Ponk O-470-50 engine (STC # SE4985NM) confirmed valve train and accessory section mechanical continuity upon rotation of the crankshaft. All cylinders produced compression when the crankshaft was rotated and a thumb was held over an open spark plug hole. The carburetor was disassembled and inspected, with no anomalies, contamination, or unusual wear found. Both magnetos produced a spark to all six of their leads when the crankshaft was rotated, and the spark plugs displayed the normal light gray coloring, with no indication of contamination or unusual electrode wear. There was no evidence of contamination in the carburetor finger screen or the engine oil filter, and although the wing fuel tanks had been breeched, the fuel gasculator was about half full.
According to the 1456 surface aviation weather observation (METAR) taken at Redmond, Oregon, which is located about 30 miles east of the accident site, the sky was clear, the visibility was more than 10 miles, and the winds were from 160 degrees at 10 knots, gusting to 17 knots. According to the pilot-rated skier at Mount Bachelor, when the aircraft was maneuvering around that area, the winds on the surface were between 20 and 25 knots. He said there was a lot of blowing snow, and that it was way to windy to be comfortable for skiing. In addition to these reports, the IIC received a report from an FAA Inspector who happened to fly over Three Fingered Jack about one hour and fifteen minutes prior to the time of the accident. That inspector was in the same make and model aircraft as the accident aircraft, and he reported that as he flew past the mountain from west to east at 7,500 feet, he encountered gusty winds (according to his GPS, 15 to 20 knots), moderate turbulence, and downdrafts. He said that the wind was blowing out of the east.
The private pilot, who had accumulated approximately 385 hours total flying time, had logged about 300 hours in this make and model aircraft. He earned his private license on June 19, 1996, but since that time there were no entries in his logbook showing the completion of a flight review to meet the requirements of FAR 61.56.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL DATA
The pilot held a third class medical issued on January 26, 2004. He had no limitations or waivers.
An autopsy was performed by the Linn County Coroner, and it was determined that the mode of death was accidental and the cause of death was head injuries sustained during the accident sequence. A forensic toxicology examination was performed by the FAA's Biomedical Sciences Research Laboratory, and there was no carbon monoxide, cyanide, or drugs detected in the blood. No ethanol was detected in the urine.
ADDITIONAL DATA AND INFORMATION
According to refueling records, on March 22, the aircraft's fuel tanks were topped off with a total of 59 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. Then, according to the pilot's logbook, the aircraft flew 1.9 hours on March 23. After the flight on the 23, the aircraft's fuel tanks were again topped off, this time with 26.7 gallons of fuel. The aircraft did not fly again until March 28, the day of the accident.
According to information gathered from interviews with friends and family members of the pilot, it is likely that the purpose of the flight was to look at the area around the B&B Complex fire that occurred the previous year. It is also likely that at the time of the accident, the pilot was approaching the ridge in order to take a look at the hiking/snowshoeing trail that runs along the ridge at that location. According to a friend of one of the passengers, that passenger called him just prior to the takeoff from Bend, and during their conversation mentioned that after the local sightseeing flight, the pilot would probably land at Sisters, Oregon, to drop him off.
The aircraft was released to HLM Air Services of Independence, Oregon, on May 27, 2004.