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On August 8, 2005, at 1955 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 177B, N35166, piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed when it struck trees and impacted terrain approximately 18 miles northwest of Centennial, Wyoming. Reportedly, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal cross-country flight was being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. A visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The flight originated at Rawlins (RWL), Wyoming, at 1928, and was en route to Wray (2V5), Colorado.
A hand-held Garmin GPS (Global Positioning System) 196 was found in the wreckage, and sent to the manufacturer for readout. Garmin downloaded the data onto a compact disk (CD), and Cessna Aircraft Company's accident investigator downloaded the CD data into a computer. According to the investigator, "The GPS contained 3 user waypoints, 18 user routes and 7 recorded tracks. The tracks were labeled "Active Log" and "Active Log 001" through "Active Log 006." The unnumbered log and log 001 were dated 08/01/05. Log 002 was dated 08/02/05. Logs 003 through 006 were recorded on 08/08/05. Log 003 began at 1048:37 Pdt. The start of the log indicates the aircraft was located at Pierce County Airport, Thun Field (1S0), Puyallup, WA. The log ends at Caldwell Industrial Airport (EUL), Caldwell, ID at 1443:01 mdt. Log 004 begins at 1513:38 and tracks the aircraft to the area of Pocatello, ID. The log ends at 1648:08 with the aircraft in flight. Log 005 begins at 1648:26 and follows the aircraft to the Rawlins Municipal Airport/Harvey Field (RWL), Rawlins, WY. Log 005 ends at 1857:08 with the aircraft stopped at the airport. Log 006 begins at 1923:08 with aircraft taxing. The log shows the aircraft departing on Runway 22 and then turning to the east. While flying on an easterly the aircraft reaches an altitude of 10,400 feet approximately 17 minutes after the start of the log. The aircraft then descends and flies at altitudes between 9,800 feet and 10,000 feet. The aircraft then begins a climb from 10,000 feet 29 minutes after departure. The last recorded point in the log is at 10,549 feet with a time stamp of 1955:03 (the airplane's clock was stopped at 1953). The last recorded log point was approximately 510 feet west of where the right wing tip was located. When log 006 was overlaid on a 3-dimensional map, the aircraft's altitude increased as it approached rising terrain. The final heading of the aircraft was within 10 degrees of the wreckage path orientation" (see EXHIBITS for maps and tables).
Rawlins Airport personnel said the airplane arrived approximately 1900 (GPS data indicates it arrived at 1857:08). It was fueled to capacity with 30.8 gallons of 100-LL gasoline. The pilot filed a VFR flight plan with the Casper (CPR), Wyoming, Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), and departed RWL approximately 1926 (GPS data indicates it departed at 1923:08). When the flight plan was not closed and an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal was reported, an INREQ (information request) was issued, followed shortly thereafter by an ALNOT (alert notice). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notified the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and a search airplane picked up the ELT signal that evening. Carbon County search and rescue (SAR) personnel located the wreckage approximately 0725 the next morning.
PERSONNEL (CREW) INFORMATION
The male pilot, age 75, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating, dated November 23, 1962. He also held a special issuance third class airman medical certificate, dated December 1, 2003, containing the restrictions, "Must have available glasses for near vision. Not valid for any class after December 31, 2005."
The pilot's most recent logbook (no. 3) was recovered from the wreckage. It contained entries from August 3, 2004, to July 23, 2005. As of the latter date, the pilot had logged 2,967.4 total flight hours.
Another logbook, belonging to his wife, was also recovered from the wreckage. It contained entries from January 27 to April 1, 2003, and indicated she had successfully completed an AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) Pinch-Hitter's course. Total time logged was 6.8 hours, all of which was logged in N35166.
N35166 (s/n 17702242), a model 177B, was manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Corporation, Wichita, Kansas, in 1975. It was powered by a Lycoming O-360-A1F6D engine (s/n L-19551-36A), rated at 180 horsepower, driving a McCauley 2-blade, all-metal, constant-speed propeller (m/n B2D34C211, s/n 746722).
According to the aircraft's maintenance records, the last annual inspection of the airframe, engine, and propeller was accomplished on June 15, 2005, at a total tachometer time of 2,581.7 hours. At that time, the engine and propeller had accrued 513.9 hours since last major overhaul. The engine was overhauled on December 29, 1999, at a total tachometer time of 2,067.8 hours, and the propeller was overhauled on December 13, 1999. The last pitot-static system and transponder checks for IFR (instrument flight rules) certification were accomplished on December 1, 2004.
ASOS (Automated Surface Observing System) METAR (Aviation Routine Weather Report) observations, recorded at Laramie (LAR) and Rawlins (RWL), Wyoming, located 38 miles east and 62 miles west-northwest of the accident site, at 1956 and 1953, respectively, were as follows:
LAR: Wind, 170 degrees at 9 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles (or greater); sky condition, 12,000 feet, scattered; temperature, 23 degrees C.; dew point, 2 degrees C.; altimeter setting, 30.20 inches of mercury; remarks, precipitation discriminator; sea level pressure, 1011.4 mb.
RWL: Wind, 290 degrees at 11 knots, gusts to 15 knots, 250 degrees variable to 330 degrees; visibility, 10 statute miles (or greater); temperature, 27 degrees C.; dew point, 1 degrees C.; altimeter setting, 30.16 inches of mercury; remarks: precipitation discriminator; peak wind, 240 degrees at 26 knots, recorded at 2 minutes past the hour; sea level pressure, 1010.6 mb.
According to a sheriff's deputy, weather in the Medicine Bow Mountains at the time of the accident consisted of low clouds and light rain, and it was getting dark.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident was in the Medicine Bow National Forest at a location of 41 degrees, 26.825' north latitude, and 106 degrees, 18.392' west longitude, and at an elevation of 10,550 feet msl.
The airplane contacted trees and impacted terrain 270 feet beyond the first tree impact. The wreckage path was aligned on a magnetic heading of 085 degrees. The height of the trees was approximately 100 feet. At the base of these trees were broken branches, the lens cover for the right wing (green) position light, and pieces of the right wing tip. Just beyond this point were pieces of the right wing and flap. The airplane rested on its right side. The empennage was twisted almost inverted. The right wing was sheared off at the flap midpoint. Most of the left wing remained attached to the airplane, the outer panel showing heavy tree impact marks.
Cockpit examination revealed the clock had stopped at 7:53. The Kollsman window of the broken altimeter was set to 29.99 inches. Tachometer and Hobbs meter times were 2609.2 and 06X0.9 hours, respectively. The throttle, propeller, and mixture controls were full forward. Although the flap handle was in the full down position, the flap actuator was fully retracted. The direction gyro (heading indicator) was at 150 degrees. The fuel selector handle was positioned on the left tank.
The nos. 1 and 2 communications radios were set to 122.22 (CPR remote communications outlet collated with the RWL VOR-DME) and 118.52 (RWL ASOS) MHz, respectively. The nos. 1 and 2 navigation radios were set to 117.80 (RWL VORTAC) and 115.0 MHz (Cherokee VOR-DME), respectively. The nos. 1 and 2 omni bearing selectors were set to 133 and 119 degrees, respectively.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On August 10, 2005, an autopsy was performed on the pilot at the McKee Medical Loveland, Colorado. The cause of death was multiple blunt force trauma. Toxicological screens were also performed by the McKee Medical Center and National Medical Services, Inc. These reports indicated no ethanol was detected in while blood, but 2.6 percent carbon monoxide and 85 ng/Ml metoprolol (Lopressor) were detected. According to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, carbon monoxide saturation in blood of less than 3 percent is considered normal for non-smokers. According to Kaiser Permanente's Drug Encyclopedia, metoprolol "is a beta-blocker used to treat chest pain (angina) and high blood pressure. It is also used after an acute heart attack to improve survival. High blood pressure reduction helps prevent strokes, heart attacks and kidney problems. This drug works by blocking the action of certain natural chemicals in your body such as epinephrine on the heart and blood vessels. This results in a lowering of the heart rate, blood pressure, and strain on the heart. This medication may also be used for irregular heartbeats, heart failure, migraine headache prevention, tremors and other conditions..."
A toxicological screen was also performed by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI). In addition to detecting metoprolol in blood and liver, quinine was detected in the liver. Also, 0.044 (ug/mL, ug/g) and 2.618 (ug/mL, ug/g) paroxetine was detected in blood and liver, respectively. According to Kaiser Permanente's Drug Encyclopedia, the medication is "a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (social phobia), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorders (GAD). SSRI's work by helping to restore the balance of certain natural substances in the brain (neurotransmitters). This medication has also been used to treat a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (premenstrual dysphoric disorder- PMDD), sexual function problems in men (premature ejaculation), nerve problems associated with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), and chronic headaches.
According to FAA's Airman Medical Certification Branch, the pilot had had "a heart attack and a history of coronary artery disease with bypass surgery. He was on a 12-month stress EKG to make sure of no further blockage. His stamina was still good."
The trip began at 1048 Pdt and terminated at 1955 mdt, a flight time of 8 hours, 7 minutes.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
FAA's Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) Quality Assurance Division was asked to examine recorded radar data, and search for targets departing Rawlins Municipal Airport approximately 1930, and whose flight path terminated at or near the accident site. No conclusive data was revealed.
According to GPS data, the airplane began its takeoff roll at 1928:02, lifted off at 1928:24, and turned eastbound at 1929:07. Between this time and 1940:26, the airplane climbed at 300 fpm and achieved a maximum altitude of 10,400 feet before gradually descending and leveling off. Between 1941:17 and 1953:05, its altitude was about 9,900 feet, varying plus or minus 100 feet. Between 1953:05 and 1955:03, the airplane climbs at a rate of about 230 fpm from 10,087 feet to 10,549 feet. This was the last recorded trackpoint. This position was approximately 510 feet west of the first piece of wreckage, and was within 10º of the wreckage path orientation."
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation were the Cessna Aircraft Corporation, and Textron-Lycoming.
The wreckage was released to the insurance company on September 12, 2005.