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On May 30, 2008, about 1045 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 172R, N389ES, sustained substantial damage after impacting remote mountainous terrain while maneuvering about 32 nautical miles northwest of Monticello, Utah. The commercial pilot and his sole passenger were killed. The airplane was registered to Arrow West Aviation Incorporated, of Price, Utah, and operated by Redtail Aviation, of Moab, Utah. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the sightseeing tour flight, which was operated in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135, and a company flight plan was filed and activated. The local flight departed the Canyonlands Airport (CNY), Moab, Utah, about 0815.
According to Redtail Aviation personnel, the sightseeing flight departed normally on the morning of the accident. About 0930, another company pilot in the area received a call from the accident pilot stating that he had landed at Cal Black Memorial Airport (U96), Halls Crossing, Utah, about 98 nautical miles (nm) south-southwest of CNY, so his passenger could use the restroom. About 1015, another company pilot departed CNY on a one-hour sightseeing tour flight. About 1045, the pilot reported speaking with the accident pilot over the airplane's radio. He subsequently asked the accident pilot a question about the name of one of the park's arches; the pilot reported that the accident pilot never answered back. There were no further communications with the accident pilot.
About 1345, company personnel reported receiving notification from Canyonlands National Park personnel notifying them that a hiker in the area had seen an airplane come down near the Joint Trail. At 1500, two of the company's pilots who had returned from searching for the missing airplane reported that they had located N389ES near the Joint Trail in the Needles District. At 1530, local law enforcement personnel reported that they had arrived at the scene of the accident, which was located about 38 nm southwest of CNY.
According to a hiker who was in the area, as she was looking toward the north she observed a white airplane, which she thought was a glider "...due to the lack of any remarkable engine noise." The witness estimated the airplane was about one-quarter mile away, when she observed it fly from her left to her right and perpendicular to her field of vision in a right bank and below the rim of a canyon. The witness stated that she momentarily lost sight of the airplane, then observed "the same white airplane" reappear about 15 to 20 seconds later. The witness reported that this time the airplane was flying from her right to her left, still below the rim of the canyon, but now lower and in a steeper bank before it went out of sight; the witness was not sure if the airplane was in a left or a right bank. The witness stated that on her hike back to the trail's originating point, she came upon the airplane wreckage. The witness reported that there was no fire, and that because of the leaking fuel and the smell of fumes present, she elected to proceed to the head of the trail to notify park rangers of the accident.
The 66 year old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. A review of the pilot's personal logbook and company flight records indicated that as of May 28, 2008, the pilot had accumulated a total time of 3,051 hours, of which 701 hours were in the accident make and model airplane. Records revealed that the pilot had flown 88.4 hours in the last 90 days, 75.9 hours in the last 60 days, and 57.4 hours in the preceding 30 days. The pilot's most recent second-class medical certificate was issued on November 13, 2007, with the limitation "Must have available glasses for near vision."
The pilot received an interagency pilot evaluation/qualification recurrent check from a Department of the Interior, Office of Aircraft Services inspector, on October 18, 2007.
The pilot's most recent FAA Part 135.293, and Part 135.299, airman competency/proficiency check was conducted on March 22, 2008, in a Cessna T210.
The four-seat, high-wing, fixed gear airplane, was manufactured in 1997. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-L2A, 180-horsepower engine and equipped with a two bladed McCauley propeller. A review of the airplane maintenance records revealed that the most recent 100 hour/annual inspection was conducted on May 23, 2008, at a tachometer reading of 509.1 hours, an airframe total time of 2,746.1 hours, and an engine total time of 1,755.0 hours. The engine was installed on June 6, 2007, at a tachometer time of 15.4 hours and an airframe total time of 2,252.4 hours.
At 1053, the CNY Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), reported wind calm, sky clear, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 23 degrees Celsius, dew point minus 9 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.05 inches of Mercury.
At 1645, the weather reporting facility at Hanksville, Utah (K4HV), located 43 nm west of the accident site, reported wind calm, visibility 60 statute miles, sky clear, temperature 22 degrees Celsius, dew point 01 degree Celsius.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Initial ground scarring was consistent with the airplane impacting up sloping terrain inside a canyon in a nose low, left wing down attitude. The energy path extended over 75 feet on a magnetic heading of 300 degrees. Subsequent to impacting 2 trees about 12 inches in diameter, the airplane came to rest on a magnetic heading of 190 degrees at an elevation of 5,423 feet mean sea level (msl).
An onsite examination of the fuselage revealed that both control yokes had separated, the magneto switch was selected to the BOTH position, and the wing flap control selector was in the 10 degree extended position. The throttle and mixture controls were observed in the full forward position.
All flight control surfaces were accounted for with control continuity confirmed. The flaps were retracted and the elevator trim tab was in the neutral position. While both wings remained attached to the fuselage, the left wing was bent aft near the lift strut attach point, and the right wing was folded upward near the flap/aileron junction. Both fuel tanks were breached, with the right fuel tank containing an undetermined amount of fuel. The fuel selector handle was positioned near the BOTH position, with the shaft separated from the fuel tank selector valve.
The airplane's engine remained attached to the airframe by the engine mount and had sustained impact damage to the exhaust system. The engine was engulfed in fire as a result of the postaccident wreckage recovery operation, which destroyed the fuel pump, magnetos and fuel ejection servo. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft flange. Both blades displayed leading edge gouging, torsional twisting, chordwise striations across the cambered surface and trailing edge "S" Bending.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Medical Examiner's Office, State of Utah, Department of Health, Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 31, 2008. The final autopsy report listed the cause of death as "Multiple blunt force injuries."
A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared for the pilot by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results for tests performed were negative.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
A postaccident examination of the airframe's structure and engine revealed no pre impact failures or malfunctions, which would have precluded normal operation.