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On November 5, 2006, about 1305 Alaska Standard time, a wheel-equipped Cessna 180E airplane, N4141J, sustained substantial damage when it collided with the ground during a forced landing on a remote island, about 3 miles west of Cordova, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airplane was operated by the pilot. The commercial certificated pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a VFR flight plan was filed. The flight originated at a private airstrip near Wasilla, Alaska, about 1152, and was en route to the Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport, Cordova.
The pilot received a weather briefing via telephone from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Kenai Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 0734. He requested weather information for Cordova and Valdez, Alaska. He was advised that widespread VFR conditions prevailed, a chance of isolated precipitation, and prevailing winds from the north. He requested the winds aloft forecast for 9,000 feet, and the flight service station specialist provided a forecast of 050 degrees at 15 knots over the Anchorage, Alaska, area, and 040 degrees at 23 knots over the Middleton Island, Alaska, area.
At 1152, the pilot contacted the Palmer Flight Service Station (FSS), Palmer, Alaska, via radio and filed a VFR flight plan. He indicated his point of departure was Wasilla, and his route of flight was direct to the Surprise Glacier, direct Tatitlek (Alaska), and direct to Cordova, a distance of about 140 miles. He indicated that the time en route was 1.5 hours, and he had 2.0 to 2.5 hours of fuel.
At 1301:52, the pilot contacted the Juneau AFSS via radio on a frequency of 122.5, and only gave his call sign (the airplane's registration number). The flight service station specialist acknowledged the radio contact with the call sign, and at 1302:00, the pilot stated: "Flight plan to Cordova. Engine out, ah, landing just east of Cordova, in a field."
The FSS specialist replied at 1302:13 by stating, "N4141J, ah Juneau Radio, you want to cancel that VFR." The pilot then answered at 1302:19, stating, "Engine out. Emergency landing. Mayday Mayday."
At 1302:26, the AFSS specialist requested a position report, and at 1302:31, the pilot replied, "One mile west of Cordova." At 1302:40, the specialist stated, "N41J, say again." The specialist made two additional radio calls to the airplane with no response.
At 1303:35, the AFSS specialist made a radio broadcast, stating, "Any aircraft, any aircraft, ah Cordova, 121.5, Juneau Radio."
Alaska State Trooper personnel from Cordova began a fixed-wing aerial search, and volunteers began a ground search for the airplane. It was located about 1421 at the edge of an open area surrounded by trees on Hawkins Island, about 3 miles west of Cordova.
The pilot was the previous owner/operator of an on-demand air taxi service, based in Cordova. The new owner of the company reported that the pilot was traveling to Cordova, planning to utilize the company's hangar to perform some engine maintenance on the accident airplane.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane single-engine sea, and instrument airplane ratings. The most recent second-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on January 6, 2006, and contained the limitation that he must wear corrective lenses.
No personal flight records were located for the pilot, and the aeronautical experience listed on page 3 of this report was obtained from a review of records on file at the FAA's Airman and Medical Records Center. On the pilot's application for medical certificate, dated January 6, 2006, the pilot indicated that his total aeronautical experience consisted of 6,495 hours, of which 532 were accrued in the previous 6 months.
An examination of the airplane's maintenance records, and comparison between the airframe and engine logbooks, disclosed several discrepancies in inspection record dates, tachometer hour meter readings, and total time entries. The maintenance records indicated that the most recent inspection was a 100 hour, accomplished on March 14, 2006. At that time, the tachometer hour meter was 285 hours. The airplane and engine had accrued a total time in service of 3,050 hours, and the engine had accrued 837 hours since a major overhaul. The time since overhaul of the propeller was 302 hours. The engine's cylinder compression was noted as: 1 - 78/80; 2 - 68/80; 3 - 73/80; 4 - 74/80; 5 - 76/80; 6 - 75/80.
The maintenance records also contained a hand-written note, dated March 2, 2006, listing inspection and component data. The notes included, among others, an installed appliance inventory, airworthiness directive (AD) status, and engine's cylinder compression values. They were: 1 - 80; 2 - 72; 3 - 73; 4 - 61; 5 - 79; 6 - 69.
The engine logbook noted that a major overhaul was accomplished on April 1, 1996, by an airframe and powerplant mechanic using overhauled and/or new parts to bring the engine to a zero time status. At that time, the engine had accrued a total time of 2,204.19 hours. The engine was reinstalled on the airframe on May 1, 1996.
On December 28, 2004, the airframe logbook noted an annual inspection at a total time of 2,765.8 hours. The next entry in the airframe logbook was dated December 27, 2005, at a total time of 2,766 hours, and indicated that the tachometer was replaced and the tach hour meter was set at zero.
The next entry in the airframe logbook was dated February 15, 2005, indicating a total time of 2,670 hours, and a tach time of 20.2. At that time, the airplane received an avionics/navigation package installed as part of the FAA's Capstone Project. The airplane had been utilized in the past in an on-demand air taxi service based in Cordova, and the avionics equipment installation included a universal access transceiver (UAT) for use with the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) service, a Garmin 480/CNX-80 radio/global position system (GPS) receiver with terrain database, and a multifunction display. At the time of the accident, the airplane was personally owned.
On April 25, 2005, at a tach time of 68 hours, and a total time of 2,717.8 hours, the airframe logbook noted empennage repairs. On May 15, 2005, the airframe logbook documented a 100 hour inspection, and listed a tach time of 90 hours, and a total time of 2,855 hours.
On November 30, 2005, at a tach time of 187 hours, and total engine time of 2,952 hours, the engine logbook noted the engine's cylinder compression values as follows: 1 - 45; 2 - 78; 3 - 70; 4 - 72; 5 - 78; 6 - 75. The number 1 cylinder was replaced and the engine received an annual inspection endorsement.
On January 19, 2006, the engine logbook noted that at a tach time of 217 hours, the right magneto was replaced, the carburetor was replaced, and the number 5 cylinder was removed, its bore was honed, and new rings and a seal kit were installed.
At the time of the accident, the tachometer hour meter indicated 393.5 hours, giving a total time for the airplane and engine of 3,158.5 hours, an engine time since overhaul of 945.5 hours, and 108.5 hours since the most recent inspection.
No record of a fuel purchase for the airplane's accident flight was located during the investigation. The pilot noted during his contact with the Palmer FSS that the airplane had either 2, or 2.5 hours of fuel aboard.
The closest weather reporting facility is the Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport, Cordova, which is located about 12 miles east of the accident site. At 1253, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) was reporting, in part: Wind, calm; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, few at 3,000 feet; temperature, 30 degrees F; dew point, 13 degrees F; altimeter, 29.89 inHg.
The terminal forecast for Cordova, issued at 0832, and valid until 0900 on November 6, was reporting, in part: Wind, variable at 4 knots; visibility, greater than 6 statute miles; clouds and sky condition, 20,000 feet scattered.
The area forecast for the central gulf coast of Alaska, issued at 1145, and valid until 2400, was reporting, in part: Clouds and weather, sky clear. Surface wind out of bays and passes, from the north with gusts to 25 knots. In the vicinity of the Copper River Delta, surface winds from the north with gusts to 50 knots. Outlook, valid from 2400 until 1800 on November 6, VFR with wind. Turbulence, isolated moderate turbulence below 3,000 feet. Icing and freezing level, nothing significant, freezing level at the surface.
The FAA provided copies of telephone and radio communications tapes maintained by the FAA at the Kenai AFSS. The FAA reported that "all services provided by Kenai AFSS and Palmer FSS were normal, and there were no pertinent transmissions." The FAA did not provide a written transcript of the pilot's communications with Kenai AFSS or Palmer FSS. After departure, the pilot made no unusual communications until his emergency radio call.
A transcript of the air to ground communications between the airplane and the FAA's Juneau AFSS facility is included in the public docket of this accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) and the parties noted in this report, examined the airplane wreckage at the accident site on November 6 and November 7. The nose of the airplane was resting against an embankment/hillside along the edge of a meadow on a magnetic heading of 104 degrees (All heading/bearings noted in this report are oriented using magnetic north.) No damage was observed to the trees surrounding the meadow, except for one tree at the base of the embankment where the airplane came to rest.
The meadow terrain consisted of short grass and areas of wet, marsh-like ground that was mostly frozen. All of the airplane's major components were found at the main wreckage area. The flight control surfaces remained connected to their respective attach points.
The left wing was curled upward and aft from about mid span to the wingtip. The outboard end of the wing was almost vertical. The leading edge of the left wing had aft crushing with some downward displacement of the leading edge. Small strands of grass were adhering to the leading edge near the outboard end. The left aileron and flap were attached to their respective attach points. The left flap appeared extended about 30 degrees. The left wing lift strut was attached to the wing, but was broken from its lower fuselage attach point.
A depression in the ground, along with a semi-circular shaped flattening of the grass, was located about 40 feet to the left of the airplane's point of rest. At the outer edge of the depression, a disruption of the soil revealed the separated left wing position light assembly, about 20 feet to the left of the outboard end of the left wing.
The right wing was undamaged except for slight aft crushing of the wingtip where it contacted upsloping terrain. The right aileron and flap were attached to their respective attach points. The right flap appeared extended about 30 degrees. The right wing lift strut remained attached to its wing and fuselage attach points.
The wing carry through was broken along its aft fuselage attach points. The fuselage, aft of the door openings was relatively undamaged. The cockpit and engine were displaced slightly to the left. The empennage was undamaged.
The underside of the fuselage at the firewall and cockpit area, was buckled and crushed upward. The left main landing gear strut was broken from its attach point, and was lying on the ground just aft of the left door opening. A large disruption in the ground was found, just aft of the left main landing gear strut. Several inches of ice, along with frozen soil, were broken from the ground impact area and displaced forward of the fuselage. The distance from the soil disruption, to the engine point of rest, was about 8 feet. The right main landing gear strut was broken at its attach point and displaced slightly aft.
The tailwheel remained attached to its fuselage attach point. A curving semi-circular disruption in the ground was noted from the tailwheel tire, curling from left to right, beginning about 4 feet behind the tailwheel point of rest.
A citizen volunteer who transported the investigative team to Hawkins Inland, was a first responder to the accident scene on the accident day. He described finding what appeared to him as parallel tire tracks in the grass, about 30 feet to the left of the airplane's point of rest. During the on-scene examination of the wreckage, the ground and grass were frozen, and eventually snow-covered. The tire impressions described by the volunteer were not visible during the subsequent on-scene examination.
The interior of the airplane contained personal possessions, survival equipment, tools, engine oil, and engine cylinder ring sets and seals.
The nose of the airplane and the engine were resting against an embankment of soil, which also formed the beginning of rising terrain to the right of the airplane point of rest. The underside of the engine was buried in frozen soil. Frozen soil and grass was packed into and along the front portion of the engine. Due to fuselage damage, flight control system cable continuity could not be established to the cockpit.
The propeller assembly remained connected to the engine crankshaft. The propeller could not be moved by hand, as it was frozen in the disrupted soil. One blade was broken in the hub and rotated from its normal orientation, and had slight aft curling. The second propeller blade was in its proper orientation at the hub, but had aft bending of about 35 degrees, beginning about 8 inches outboard from the hub. The forward face of each blade had some spanwise scratching, but the leading edges of both propeller blades did not exhibit leading edge gouging, chordwise scratching, or torsional twisting.
The engine sustained impact damage to the underside portion of the engine. Removal of the upper engine cowling revealed no damage to the top of the engine case. Examination of the engine cylinder bores, via lighted borescope through the top spark plug holes, revealed no damage to the interior of the cylinders or the top of the pistons. The top spark plugs exhibited no unusual combustion signatures. The underside of the engine was not accessible. The gascolator was not accessible.
The airplane fuel selector was positioned on the left tank. About 4 ounces of blue colored fluid having the odor of fuel was collected from the bottom of the fuel tanks. The fuel tanks appeared to be intact, however, the entire wing carry-through structure was broken. The throttle, mixture and prop controls were full forward. The master switch was "ON." The magneto switch was on "Both." The carburetor heat control was "ON."
The panel-mounted communications radio indicated that the active frequency was 122.5, and the standby position was 134.8. The Garmin navigational receiver indicated that its last known position, at 2120Z, was 60.33 degrees north latitude, and 145.50 degrees west longitude. The Garmin communication frequency was 123.6, with 122.4 in the standby position. The VOR receiver frequency was 108.0, with 108.1 in the standby position.
The airplane remained at the accident site until it was recovered by family members and friends in April, 2007, and transported to Cordova. The engine was removed from the airframe and transported to Anchorage, Alaska, on May 14, 2007, by friends of the family. The engine was shipped without its propeller.
On May 15, 2007, an external engine examination was conducted in Anchorage. The parties noted in this report participated in the examination with the exception of the airframe manufacturer representative. The engine was bolted vertically to an engine stand by its crankshaft flange. The examination revealed that the forward portion of the engine had impact damage to the forward cylinders, the left intake tubes, and the balance tube. The oil sump was crushed upward along the forward end, and had been breached. The exhaust tubes had several points of bending and crushing that produced sharp folded creases that were not cracked or broken along the crease. The left engine leg mounts were fractured.
Gear and valve train continuity was established when the engine case was rotated by hand around the stationary crankshaft. The vacuum pump, oil pump, starter drive and adapter, could be rotated by hand. The propeller governor control lever was broken. The governor rotated by hand, and the screen was free of contaminants.
The sparks plugs exhibited no unusual combustion signatures, although the number 2, 4, and 6 bottom plugs had an oily appearance. The oil filter contained a large amount of carbon residue, with several short, thin strands of wire.
The magnetos appeared undamaged. They were placed on a test bench and produced spark at all terminals.
The carburetor sustained upward crushing to the air intake/carburetor heat box, and the mixture control arm stop was bent, allowing the arm to rotate beyond its normal stop. The carburetor was placed on a test bench, where it maintained about 6 psi without leaking. The accelerator pump functioned normally. The plastic floats were undamaged and not binding. One float had a reddish line along one side. The carburetor bowl contained a mixture of water and test bench fluid. The bowl had reddish deposits in the bottom and the mixture control valve stem was rusted.
Removal of the engine cylinders from the case revealed normal combustion signatures. The piston rings and wristpins had normal wear. The number one cylinder exhaust valve, viewed from the underside within the cylinder, had a slight green appearance around the valve circumference.
Separation of the engine case revealed that the oil, coating the interior components, was quite dark. The main bearing surfaces, as well as the crankshaft bearing journals, were oil coated without any evidence of heat or excessive wear. The connecting rods were not removed from the crankshaft. They had a normal wear appearance. The mating surfaces of the crankshaft halves had minor to no fretting.
The examination of the engine did not reveal any observed evidence of a preimpact mechanical malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted under the authority of the Alaska State Medical Examiner, 4500 South Boniface Parkway, Anchorage, Alaska, on November 6, 2006. The examination revealed the cause of death for the pilot was attributed to multiple traumatic injuries.
A toxicological examination was conducted by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) on December 7, 2006, which was negative for any alcohol or drugs.
The FAA's Capstone avionics equipment utilizes several integrated systems to provide the pilot with position data, traffic and weather data, and communications capability. Position data from the airplane, and weather data to the airplane, is accomplished through a network of ground based transmitter/receiver (GBT) antennas. The FAA reported that the Capstone system did not record any position information from the accident airplane because it was not within range of a GBT. The Garmin system did not store any internal track data.
The Safety Board released the airframe and engine to the owner's representatives on May 16, 2007. No parts or components were retained by the Safety Board.