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On November 3, 2007, at 1605 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172I, N8353L, piloted by a private pilot, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Gladwin, Michigan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated from Gladwin Zettle Memorial Airport (KGDW) at an unknown time.
Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane maneuvering over their position at a low altitude. The airplane was observed in a left turn when it suddenly banked to the right and left before descending vertically (nose down) into a wooded area.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot of N8353L, age 52, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. The pilot's last aviation medical examination was completed on December 24, 2006, when he was issued a third-class medical certificate with the limitation that he wear corrective lenses.
The pilot's most recent logbook entry was dated October 7, 2007. He had accumulated 234.4 hours total flight time, of which 190.9 hours were as pilot-in-command. All of the pilot's flight experience was in single-engine land airplanes. He had accumulated 14.4 hours at night, 0.5 hours in actual instrument conditions, and 2.5 hours in simulated instrument conditions. His last flight review was completed on September 23, 2007, in the accident airplane.
The pilot had flown 60.8 hours during the past year, 12.0 hours during the prior 90 days, and 4.8 hours during previous 30 days. All of the flight time accumulated during those periods was completed in the accident airplane. The pilot did not fly during the 24 hour period before the accident flight.
The accident airplane was a 1968 Cessna 172I Skyhawk, serial number 17256553. The all-metal airplane incorporated a semimonocoque fuselage and empennage design. The airplane was equipped with externally braced wings, wing flaps, and a fixed tricycle landing gear. The airplane was configured to seat four occupants and had a certified maximum takeoff weight of 2,300 lbs.
The accident airplane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate on February 19, 1968. The airplane was owned and operated by the Skyvue Flying Club, based at Gladwin Zettle Memorial Airport. The aircraft had a total service time of 3,831.1 hours at the time of the accident. The last annual inspection was completed on November 16, 2006, and the airplane had accumulated 86.1 hours since the inspection. The last maintenance performed on the airframe was on December 20, 2006, at 3,754.1 hours, when the transponder was recertified.
The airplane was equipped with a 150-horsepower Lycoming model O-320-E2D engine, serial number L-21473-27A. The engine had accumulated 1,231.1 hours since being overhauled on June 23, 1993. The last inspection of the engine was performed on April 9, 2007, at 3,759.0 hours total time, when both magnetos were overhauled.
The metal propeller was a two-bladed McCauley 1C160/DTM7553, hub serial number 2D44017. The propeller was installed on the accident engine on October 16, 2005. The propeller had a total service time of 160.5 hours.
A review of the airframe, engine and propeller records found no history of unresolved airworthiness issues.
The closest weather station to the accident site was at Roscommon County Airport (KHTL), Houghton Lake, Michigan, located about 25 nautical miles north of the accident site. The airport was equipped with an automated surface observing system (ASOS).
At 1553, the KHTL ASOS reported the following weather conditions: Wind 320 degrees true at 10 knots; visibility 10 miles; sky overcast at 5,500 feet above ground level; temperature 8 degrees Celsius; dew point -2 degrees Celsius; altimeter setting 30.04 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located in a wooded area. The main wreckage consisted of the entire airframe. The fuselage was resting upright at an approximate 45-degree angle to the surrounding terrain. The engine had penetrated the soft terrain to the point where the bases of the front door frames were even with the ground surface. All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the accident site. The flaps and inboard sections of the ailerons remained attached to the wings. The outboard 3 to 4 feet of each wing had separations consistent with tree impact. The leading edges of both wings were crushed aft. The flaps were in a fully retracted position. The vertical stabilizer, rudder, left horizontal stabilizer and elevator remained attached to the aft fuselage. The right horizontal stabilizer, right elevator and trim tab were separated from the aft fuselage. The aileron and elevator control cables were continuous from their respective control surfaces to the cockpit control columns. The rudder control cables were continuous from the control surface horn to the rudder pedals. The main landing gear assembly remained attached to the fuselage. The nose landing gear was impacted into the engine compartment.
The engine remained partially attached to the airframe. The engine was rotated by turning the propeller flange. Crankshaft continuity was confirmed to all engine cylinders, rear gear assemblies, and the valve train. Compression and suction was confirmed on all four cylinders. Both magnetos provided spark while the crankshaft was rotated. The upper spark plugs were light brown in color and exhibited wear consistent with normal engine operation. One propeller blade was twisted and bent aft approximately 90-degrees at mid span. The other propeller blade had a slight aft bend at mid span.
Examination of the recovered wreckage revealed no evidence of a pre-impact mechanical malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On November 4, 2007, an autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Sisson Funeral Home in Gladwin, Michigan. The cause of death was attributed to "massive head and neck trauma secondary to plane crash."
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. No carbon monoxide or cyanide was detected in blood and no ethanol or drugs were detected in urine.
Local law enforcement personnel reported that the pilot was wearing his lap belt.
The 1968 Cessna 172I airplane did not have shoulder harnesses installed. The installation of shoulder harnesses was not required during the FAA certification and manufacture of the airplane.
FAA Advisory Circular 91-65, Use of Shoulder Harness in Passenger Seats, states: "...the safety board found that 20 percent of the fatally injured occupants in these accidents could have survived with shoulder harnesses (assuming the seat belt was fastened) and 88 percent of the seriously injured could have had significantly less severe injuries with the use of shoulder harnesses..."
Local law enforcement personnel recovered a digital camera that was slung around the pilot's neck. The camera contained photographs of the immediate area surrounding the accident site. The recovered image metadata showed that 112 photos were taken during the accident flight. The first photo was taken at 1552:41 (hhmm:ss) and the last photo was taken at 1605:19.
Several individuals reported that the pilot often took aerial photographs during his flights. The pilot's logbook documented numerous flights that were undertaken for the expressed purpose of photographing objects on the ground.