On May 9, 2008, about 1730 mountain daylight time, a Maule M-5-235C, N9030E, owned and operated by the pilot, veered off the runway and came to a stop in a nose down attitude at the Zahn's Camp (uncharted) airstrip, located about 18 miles northwest of Oljato, Utah. The airplane was substantially damaged. Neither the private pilot nor the pilot-rated passenger was injured during the personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan had been filed. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and it originated from Page, Arizona, about 30 minutes before the accident. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that he and his friend intended to fly to the "backcountry" airstrip for the purpose of enjoying the scenery and camping. The pilot stated that he overflew the airstrip to look for obstructions and potholes, and to assess its overall condition. The airstrip appeared in good condition, and there were no indications that it had been closed. There are no facilities at the airstrip. During the overflight, the pilot looked at bushes and opined that the wind was light and variable. There is no windsock.
According to the pilot, from his preflight preparations, he believed runway 06 was the preferred landing runway under the existing conditions, and he proceeded to make a traffic pattern approach for landing. The pilot further reported that his approach was stabilized, and the airplane's speed was 70 miles per hour with 40 degrees of wing flaps extended. There was no indication of a crosswind, and the airplane touched down "slightly long." Thereafter, the pilot said he "discovered that full braking was ineffective," the airplane was "skidding in the dirt...the wheels locked...and we had run out of runway." The conventional gear airplane veered off the side of the runway as it approached the runway's end, went down an incline, and came to a stop with its propeller and right wing on the ground. The outboard portion of the airplane's right wing and horizontal stabilizer were bent. The pilot reported that, during the accident flight, he had not experienced any mechanical malfunction or failure with his airplane.
The pilot further reported to the Safety Board investigator that immediately following the accident he and the passenger exited the airplane. Fuel was observed leaking from the right wing's vent. There was no fire. A global positioning system receiver and a satellite cell phone were on board the airplane. These devices were used to notify authorities of their precise location. This action facilitated their rescue.
The pilot-rated passenger reported to the Safety Board investigator that during the pilot's low altitude overflight of the Zahn's airstrip he did not observe anything wrong with the airstrip that would preclude a normal landing. On final approach, no turbulence or obvious wind (headwind, tailwind, or crosswind) was encountered. From their preflight planning, they were aware that the runway was short. The pilot-rated passenger additionally stated that the airplane "floated" past the beginning of runway 06, touched down a little long, bounced, and was firmly on the ground about midfield. Thereafter, the airplane's rate of deceleration was less than normal, despite the pilot's application of brakes. Upon exiting the airplane, the wind was light and variable.
The Safety Board investigator noted that the airstrip is not depicted on the Federal Aviation Administration's Denver Sectional Aeronautical Chart, which covers the accident site area. There are no roads, services, or facilities (windsock, buildings, etc.) at the airstrip. The backcountry airstrip is located in San Juan County, near the San Juan River arm of Lake Powell, which is within the geographic boundaries of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, in southeastern Utah. The boundary area is depicted on the Denver Sectional Aeronautical Chart as being on land administered by the National Park Service.
A notation on the Denver Sectional Aeronautical Chart states the following: "The landing of aircraft is prohibited on lands...administered by the National Park Service...without authorization from the respective agency." The National Park Service (NPS) district ranger reported to the Safety Board investigator that permission to land at the airstrip had not been requested by or granted to the pilot. The NPS ranger additionally reported that the airstrip is not maintained, and it is not equipped with markings of any type. As indicated by federal regulation, the airstrip may be used in emergencies involving the safety of human life.
The pilot-rated passenger reported that he used a private publication for assistance in performing preflight planning for the accident flight, and he provided the information to the pilot. The publication is called "Fly Utah!" According to this publication, the Zahn's Camp airstrip, elevation 3,794 feet mean sea level, is 1,190 feet long and 30 feet wide. Its single, hard packed, sand runway is oriented on an approximate magnetic course of 060/240 degrees. When landing on runway 06, which is the preferred landing runway, there is a 1.68 percent uphill slope.
The "Fly Utah!" publication contains two manuals, entitled "Air & Info Sections" and "Ground Section." In the "Air & Info Sections" a "Warning & Disclaimer" statement is written that states: "The pilot must take sole responsibility for determining the current status of the runway and the results of his actions in using it. This book is sold with the understanding that it is to be used only in conjunction with official publications of the U.S. government, and is not to be considered a legal substitute for such publications." In the "Ground Section" of the publication there is a photograph of three airplanes parked on the airstrip. The photograph is labeled "Surveying Zahn's airstrip."
Following the accident, the Utah Back Country Pilots Association issued the following statement on its web site: "Zahn's Camp airstrip is NOT open to air operations...." Also, the publisher of "Fly Utah!" issued a "Critical Update" to its publication stating that Zahn's Camp is "closed until further notice. DO NOT USE."