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On April 9, 2007, about 1620 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172N, N6267D, impacted rising mountainous terrain during a course reversal turn about 11 miles west (264 degrees, magnetic) of the Page Municipal (uncontrolled) Airport (PGA), Page, Arizona. The airplane's fuselage was crushed by decelerative impact forces, and the airplane was destroyed. The two private pilots were killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight. The registered owner of the airplane had authorized the pilot who occupied the left front seat to fly his airplane, but he had not authorized the pilot who occupied the right front seat to fly his airplane. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and it originated from PGA about 1610.
A personal friend of the two pilots reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the pilots' flight commenced from North Las Vegas, Nevada (VGT), on April 1, 2007. The purpose of the flight was for the left-seated pilot to visit relatives residing in Colorado. The pilots departed Colorado for their return flight to VGT on the morning of April 9. The friend indicated that the left-seated pilot had more flying experience than the right-seated pilot.
According to personnel at Classic Aviation, a fixed base operator (FBO) at PGA, upon landing at PGA one of the pilots requested that the airplane be topped off with 100 LL avgas. The airplane was serviced accordingly. The refueling operation was completed by about 1545. Thereafter, one of the pilots (subsequently determined to be the left-seated pilot) paid for the fuel. The payment operation was accomplished with a credit card, and the transaction was time stamped at 1558.
The line service employee, who refueled the accident airplane, reported to the Safety Board investigator that he did not observe any irregularities with the airplane while servicing it. He completely filled both wing fuel tanks, for a total of 36.8 gallons of fuel.
Another Classic Aviation employee reported that the pilots came into the FBO and may have purchased vending machine food. Also, they may have checked the weather using the FBO's computer. About 1605, the pilots departed the FBO and were not observed again.
No one at the airport reported to the Safety Board investigator having observed the airplane takeoff. Also, no witnesses reported observing the airplane proceed in a westerly direction toward the rising terrain or crash.
The Safety Board investigator estimated the airplane's departure and accident times. The pilots' westward flight route from PGA toward their VGT destination was not determined.
A search was initiated for the airplane/pilots when they failed to arrive at VGT. The airplane was located when a PGA-based pilot homed in on the accident airplane's emergency locator transmitter (ELT), which was audible at the airport.
Pilot, Left Seat, Age 51
Based upon a review of the pilot's personal flight record logbook, he began taking flying lessons in 1981. He flew mostly Cessna 150 and 152 airplanes during the next few years. He was issued a private pilot certificate for airplane single engine land in 1986, with a total flight time of about 57 hours. The pilot continued flying through May 1988.
The pilot resumed flying in March 1991, and he stopped flying in November 1993. His next flight was in February 2001, following which he flew twice in 2005.
The pilot resumed flying on June 13, 2006, upon completing a 1.1-hour flight review in a Cessna 172. Between September 29, and October 2, 2006, the pilot flew round trip between North Las Vegas, Nevada, and Pueblo, Colorado. This round trip flight took about 14 hours. Thereafter, the pilot continued flying each month during the remainder of 2006.
During 2007, the pilot logged a flight on February 16, and on March 7. Thereafter, only 1 additional flight is recorded in his logbook, but the date is not indicated. During the 90 days preceding initiation of the April 1, 2007, round trip flight from Nevada to Colorado, the pilot's logbook lists 3 landings, and a total flight time of 5.7 hours.
The pilot's logbook indicates that his total cross-country flight time is about 111 hours. His total flying experience is about 220 hours.
The pilot held a second-class aviation medical certificate, which was issued without restrictions in December 2005.
Pilot, Right Seat, Age 59
Based upon a review of the pilot's personal flight record logbook, he began taking flying lessons in December 2005. The pilot soloed in February 2006, and was issued a private pilot certificate for airplane single engine land in April 2006, at which time his total flying experience was about 79 hours.
During the 90-days preceding initiation of the April 1, 2007, flight from Nevada to Colorado, the pilot's logbook lists 4 landings, and a total flight time of 4.2 hours. The pilot's total flight time prior to departure from Nevada was about 90 hours. His total pilot-in-command time was about 21 hours, and his total cross-country flight time was about 22 hours. All of the pilot's flying experience was in a Cessna 172.
The pilot held a third-class aviation medical certificate, which was issued without restrictions in April 2006.
A review of the airplane's maintenance records indicates that the airplane was maintained on an annual inspection basis, with the last annual inspection accomplished in February 2007. No further maintenance was listed in the aircraft or engine logbooks.
The airplane's registered owner reported to the Safety Board investigator that, to the best of his knowledge, everything in the airplane was functioning properly when the pilot departed VGT for his cross-country flight.
The airplane's fuel tanks have a maximum published capacity of 43 gallons, and a total usable capacity of 40.0 gallons.
A review of fuel receipts found in the wreckage revealed the following purchases of 100LL octane fuel:
(1) On April 1, 2007, 18.4 gallons of fuel were added at Page, AZ.
(2) On April 9, 2007, 28.4 gallons of fuel were added at Pueblo, CO. The receipt was time stamped at 0953; and
(3) On April 9, 2007, 36.8 gallons of fuel were added at Page, AZ. The receipt for payment was time stamped 1558.
The airplane's maximum Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated gross weight is 2,300 pounds. Its basic empty weight, as of May 14, 2001, was 1,478.22 pounds, and its useful load was 822 pounds.
The Safety Board investigation team weighed the pilots' baggage and estimated the weight of additional items observed in the airplane at the accident site. The total weight of all articles was about 102 pounds. The total weight of the pilots, based upon their FAA medical certificates, was 385 pounds. The estimated maximum weight of the usable fuel at the time of the accident was 235 pounds.
Based upon this data, the maximum airplane weight at the time of the accident was about 2,200 pounds (100 pounds below its maximum certificated gross weight).
According to Cessna Aircraft Company's 1979 "Pilot's Operating Handbook" (POH) for a model 172N, when operating at 2,300 pounds gross weight, at a pressure altitude of 4,000 feet, and with a temperature of +20 degrees Celsius, a Cessna 172N is capable of climbing at 545 feet per minute at a climb airspeed of 71 knots. This published maximum rate of climb is reduced under less than standard atmospheric conditions.
Interpolating for the temperature and atmospheric pressure conditions reported at 1556 for PGA, an airplane operating at its maximum certificated gross weight is capable of climbing about 450 feet per minute at 5,000 feet.
The closest aviation weather observation station to the accident site is located at PGA. In pertinent part, at 1556, PGA reported the following weather: surface wind from 270 degrees at 9 knots with gusts to 21 knots; 10 miles visibility; sky clear; temperature 23 degrees Celsius; dew point -7 degrees Celsius; and altimeter 29.73 inches of Mercury.
At 1656, the wind was from 280 degrees at 11 knots, and the altimeter was 29.71 inches of Mercury. The remainder of the observation was the same as the preceding hour.
According to the FAA, a search of nearby FAA facilities did not reveal evidence that any air-to-ground communications or services had been provided to N6267D during the accident flight from PGA.
The local UNICOM frequency at PGA is not recorded. No record was found indicating that the pilots had communicated with any FAA facility or received any services during the accident flight.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The Safety Board investigator's on scene examination of the accident site topography and airplane wreckage revealed the airplane impacted a rocky outcrop adjacent to the upsloping north side of a box-like canyon. The site elevation is about 5,420 feet mean sea level (msl).
The airplane was located on the north side of a drainage area that leads up the center of the canyon, and it was approximately 250 feet below the canyon's ridgeline. The fuselage was found in an upright but nose down attitude. It was pointed in an easterly direction toward PGA, and away from the steepest upsloping terrain located west of the accident site.
A glass fragment from the left wing's shattered red navigation light lens was found about 4 feet west (behind) the left wing tip. No ground scar was located on the rocky terrain more than about 4 feet from the wreckage. The bottom surface of the right wing was accordioned in an upward and aft direction. The deformation was consistent in appearance with the contour of the underlying boulder (see photograph). The nose gear was bent in an aft direction and was beneath the engine compartment, which was displaced in an aft direction against the firewall. The occupiable space in the cockpit was reduced.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Pilot, Left Seat
The pilot held a second-class aviation medical certificate that was issued without restrictions or limitations in December 2005. The pilot's listed weight was 180 pounds. A family friend reported that the pilot was in good health, and he did not have any physical disabilities.
Pilot, Right Seat
The pilot held a third-class aviation medical certificate that was issued without restrictions or limitations in December 2005. The pilot's listed weight was 205 pounds. A family friend reported that the pilot was in good health, and he did not have any physical disabilities.
Autopsies were performed on both pilots by the Coconino County Medical Examiner, Flagstaff, Arizona. For both pilots, the cause of death was "multiple blunt force injuries." The FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute performed forensic toxicology on specimens from both pilots, and no drugs of abuse or ethanol were detected.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Airframe and Engine Examination
All of the airplane's flight control surfaces were found attached to the airframe. The main wing spars appeared devoid of spanwise crush signatures, and the wings were resting on rocky terrain. The empennage was mostly intact. It was observed bent over the top of the fuselage in a forward and upward direction with the tail displaced in an easterly direction. The engine compartment and forward portion of the cockpit were found crushed in an aft and estimated 60-degree upward direction, relative to the airplane's longitudinal axis. The continuity of the flight control system was confirmed from the flight control surfaces to the cockpit. The wing flaps were found in the retracted position, as indicated by the flap jack screw.
Fuel, estimated at over 10 gallons, was found in both of the wing fuel tanks. There was no evidence of fire.
The airplane's engine was examined following its recovery from the accident site. The crankshaft was rotated through 360 degrees, and the continuity of the engine's valve and gear train was confirmed. The oil cooler was intact, and no evidence of oil residue was observed in the engine compartment or on the airframe.
The spark plugs were removed and, according to the Lycoming Engine participant, they appeared serviceable and in good condition. Other than native vegetation and soil, no evidence of foreign objects was observed in the engine compartment.
The propeller was found at ground level and remained attached to the crankshaft. The propeller blades exhibited torsional deformation and "S" bending. The spinner was crushed in an aft direction.
In summary, no evidence consistent with a preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction was found with any examined rotating, reciprocating, or airframe component.
Climb Performance and Attainable Altitude
The direct flight route between PGA and the accident site is about 11.2 miles. According to the accident airplane's POH, in a zero wind condition, a Cessna 172N climbing at 82 miles per hour (71 knots) under the ambient atmospheric conditions would gain about 3,600 feet during the 8-minute-long flight.
Based upon this performance data, a Cessna 172N departing PGA, elevation 4,316 feet msl, could climb to 7,900 feet msl during the flight.
Rising Terrain Information
The Safety Board investigator examined the 264-degree direct course between PGA and the accident site. The investigator noted that west of PGA the terrain is initially flat, with areas sparse of native vegetation. A few miles west of PGA, toward the accident site, the elevation rises.
Along this course, about 10 miles east of the accident site over U.S. Highway 89, the elevation is about 4,000 feet msl. About 7 miles east of the accident site the ground elevation is about 3,800 feet. From this location the terrain increases in elevation over hills and valleys.
For example, about 5 miles east of the accident site the ground elevation is about 4,100 feet. Between 2 and 3 miles east of the accident site the ground elevation is about 4,300 feet msl. Thereafter, the terrain rises more rapidly. One mile east of the site the elevation is 5,000 feet msl, and about 0.5 mile east of the site the elevation is 5,100 feet msl.
Between 0.2 and 0.3 miles south, west and northwest of the accident site the terrain's elevation is between 5,300 and 5,600 feet msl. The peak elevation over the ridge line about 0.5 mile southwest to west of the site is between 5,700 and 5,800 feet msl.
Accident Time Determination
The Safety Board investigator estimated the time of the airplane's takeoff and the time of the accident. The estimate was based upon the following facts: (1) the pilots' were observed at the Page Airport at 1605; (2) a family friend indicated that one of the pilots initiated a cell phone call to his home during which he reported that he anticipated departing Page and flying directly home in time for dinner by 1830; and (3) the airplane's impact-damaged clock was observed with the minute hand stopped at 20 minutes past the hour. The hour hand's position was not determined; it was loose on the dial.
Depiction of National Park Service Area on Aeronautical Chart
PGA's elevation is 4,316 feet mean sea level (msl). The accident site elevation is about 5,420 feet msl. The site is located within the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, which is depicted on the FAA's Las Vegas, Nevada, Sectional Aeronautical Chart. A notation printed on the chart legend regarding regulations for flights in the area states, in pertinent part, that all aircraft are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of National Park Service areas.
During the examination of the airplane's cockpit, a Las Vegas Sectional Aeronautical chart was located. It was found wedged between the left front seat and the left door. The chart had a route line drawn on it that was oriented in an east-to-west (or vise versa) direction. The line terminated at PGA, and it went over the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area (see photograph of subject chart).