CHI04LA278
CHI04LA278

On September 23, 2004, at 2345 central daylight time, a Cessna 208B (Caravan), N7392B, operated by Eagle Air Cargo, Inc. and piloted by an airline transport pilot, was substantially damaged during an in-flight collision with terrain near Gwinner-Roger Melroe Field Airport (GWR), Gwinner, North Dakota. The flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 135 on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at GWR at the time of the accident. The pilot sustained serious injuries. The flight departed Fergus Falls Municipal Airport (FFM), Fergus Falls, Minnesota, at 2307. The intended destination was GWR.

The pilot reported that the flight originated in Escanaba, Michigan. He noted that due to excessive headwinds en route and a lack of Jet-A fuel at GWR, he elected to land at FFM. After re-fueling and filing an IFR flight plan, he departed for GWR.

The pilot noted that he obtained the GWR Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) broadcast via the aircraft radio while en route. He stated the GWR AWOS reported visibility was above that required for the Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) approach, however, the ceiling was below the minimum descent altitude (MDA). He reported that he attempted to contact air traffic control (ATC) with the intention of diverting to Fargo. However, he was not able to contact ATC and elected to continue to GWR.

The pilot reported that he flew the entire NDB approach to GWR. He stated: "When I arrived at the MDA, I saw the runway, directly below and a little to my left. My plan, at the time, was to circle left and land." He stated after that point he had no further recollection of the events surrounding the accident. The pilot reported that there were no failures or malfunctions associated with the aircraft.

Two witnesses about 2 miles south of the city of Gwinner reported seeing lights from an airplane near the Gwinner airport. They stated that it was about 2345. One recalled that the weather was "foggy and a heavy mist." The other witness stated: "When I saw the plane it was very low but I thought it was going around for the landing because it looked like the plane had its right wing higher, and I could see part of the belly of the plane, which made it look like it was banking around."

The aircraft impacted an open field about 1-1/2 miles south of GWR. The distance from the point of initial impact to the aircraft was approximately 450 feet. The cargo pod was separated and located in the debris path. The aircraft was upright, resting on the bottom, right side of the fuselage and the right wing tip. The right main landing gear strut was bent aft approximately 60 degrees. The outboard section of the right wing was bent upward about 20 degrees. Each wing appeared to be rotated forward approximately 10 degrees over the entire span about each wing root. The right aileron was damaged. The left horizontal stabilizer exhibited leading edge crushing.

The engine remained attached to the firewall, however, the engine mount was damaged and the engine was dislocated to the right. The propeller blades were twisted. The outboard portion of one blade separated about mid-span. The separated blade was in the debris path.

The cargo consisted of 64 loose castings. Each casting weighed approximately 46.75 lbs. Partition nets were installed between cargo zones 1 and 2 and between cargo zones 3 and 4. The forward net was torn from the lower anchor points and the castings were piled against the aft side of the cockpit cargo barrier.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector confirmed flight control continuity during a post-accident examination. The altimeter was set to 29.70 when observed after the accident.

Weather recorded by the GWR AWOS at 0445 was: Wind from 250 degrees at 8 knots; overcast sky at 400 feet above ground level (agl); temperature and dew point were 10 degrees Celsius; and the altimeter setting was 29.70 inches of Mercury.

Instrument approaches available at GWR were an NDB or global positioning system (GPS) approach to runway 34. The MDA was 1,960 feet mean sea level (MSL), which was 694 feet above field elevation. The required visibility was 1 statute mile.

The airport is located about 1 mile southeast of the city of Gwinner. With the exception of the city, the area surrounding the airport is sparsely populated with several small lakes.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge reviewed a tape of the communications between the accident aircraft and Minneapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center. During the aircraft's descent into GWR, the controller was unable to maintain voice contact with N7392B. The ATC approach clearance was relayed through another aircraft operating in the vicinity of GWR. The pilot who relayed the clearance reported that it was received and read back correctly.

14 CFR Part 135.225, IFR: Takeoff, approach and landing minimums, stated: "No pilot may begin an instrument approach procedure to an airport unless . . . the latest weather report issued by that weather reporting facility indicates that weather conditions are at or above the authorized landing minimums for that airport."

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