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On July 8, 2009, about 1630 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 182P, N7314S, sustained substantial damage following impact with terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude near Mammoth Lakes, California. The certificated private pilot and his sole passenger were killed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight, which was being operated in accordance with 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, and a flight plan was not filed. The flight departed the Mammoth Lakes Airport (MMH) about 1615, and was destined for the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), Fresno, California.
According to the owner of the airplane, he had just purchased it the day prior to the accident. The owner reported that he had enlisted the help of the accident pilot to fly the airplane back to its new home base in Dallesport, Oregon, but only after the pilot had inspected the airplane on behalf of the new owner prior to its purchase. Subsequent to the purchase being finalized, the pilot flew the airplane to Phoenix, Arizona. The next morning, the day of the accident, the pilot and his passenger departed for MMH, with an overnight stop planned for FAT. The pilot informed the owner that he would be taking “a little side trip” up the coast through California, Oregon and Washington on the way back to Dallesport, stopping at different places along the way.
According to the customer service manager employed by a local fixed base operator at MMH, elevation 7,135 mean sea level (msl), after refueling the pilot asked her what the winds were. The manager reported that she called the local Aviation Weather Observing System (AWOS) number in order for the pilot to listen to the weather. After obtaining the wind information the pilot said, "We'll wait it out for a couple of minutes." The manager subsequently went outside to watch the airplane take off on runway 27. The manager stated that she observed the airplane for about 5 minutes after it departed straight out, “…which is not common for airplanes going over the pass to the valley. They normally circle up to gain altitude before heading over the pass. The plane didn’t seem to be gaining altitude very quickly.”
According to a second airport employee who refueled the airplane, the pilot was concerned about the crosswind condition at the airport. The witness stated that the customer service manager played the AWOS recorded weather for the pilot at least twice, and the pilot commented that “…they come and go.” The witness reported that the pilot told him he would taxi out and wait for a lull in the winds. The witness further reported that the pilot mentioned that he “wanted to take a look at a mountain range" on his way over the Sierras. The witness revealed that after the pilot started the engine the passenger got out and removed the wheel chocks. The witness also revealed that he did not watch the takeoff.
One witness who was in close proximity to the accident site reported seeing the airplane "coming up the draw” into the lake area before making a left turn at a low altitude and impacting trees.
A second witness, who also resides close to the accident site, reported that she was standing outside when she heard the airplane's engine. The witness stated, “…the engine noise was quite loud and sounded very close, and when I looked up I saw a red and white airplane coming over just above the tips of the trees.” When asked to indicate the direction from which the airplane was approaching and the direction the wind was coming from, she pointed toward the southwest. The witness added, "[The airplane] was directly over our heads. I was able to read the tail numbers as it passed over. I do not think it hit the trees directly over my head, but it was very low. It was flying with its wings level, but immediately I watched it make a sharp bank to the left, as if to turn. I heard a 'whap,' and then another 'whap,' and then it disappeared below the tree line. Then there was a faint 'thump.' I kept watching for a few seconds, hoping to see it rise above the trees further away and fly off."
The pilot, age 52, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating, which was issued on February 27, 1978, and an aircraft mechanic's certificate for airframe and powerplant, issued on April 19, 1979. The pilot possessed a third-class medical certificate, issued on April 12, 2008. The medical certificate contained the limitation "airman must carry glasses for near vision."
A review of the pilot's personal logbook revealed that he had accumulated a total of 1,042.7 hours, 125.4 hours in make and model, 7 hours in the preceding 90 days and 3 hours in the last 30 days. The pilot's most recent biennial flight review was conducted on April 28, 2008.
The airplane was a Cessna 182P, serial number 18265106, manufactured in 1976. A review of the airplane's logbooks revealed a total airframe time of 6,187.9 hours at its most recent annual inspection, which was completed on January 13, 2009.
The airplane was equipped with a Teledyne Continental Motors O-470-S engine, serial number 269114-R. Total time on the engine at the last annual inspection was 3,399 hours, and 1,209.6 hours since its most recent major overhaul.
At 1630, the automated weather station at KMMH, which is located about 7 nautical miles (nm) east of the accident site, reported wind 240 degrees at 14 knots, with gusts to 26 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky clear, temperature 24 degrees Celsius, dew point 8 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of Mercury. The density altitude at the accident site was calculated to be about 11,300 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The Safety Board IIC and representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Cessna Aircraft Company, and Teledyne Continental Motors inspected the wreckage at the accident site.
The accident site was located in a meadow surrounded by indigenous 100-foot tall mature fir trees, about 7 nm west-southwest of the departure airport. Elevation at the wreckage site was about 8,575 feet msl. Steep mountainous terrain with elevations from 10,000 to 11,000 feet mean sea level (msl)bordered the accident site on all quadrants. The debris path was oriented on a measured magnetic heading of about 060 degrees, which was opposite the direction when the airplane entered the draw.
Initial impact was evidenced by multiple tree strikes about 1,000 feet west of the main wreckage site. Several trees were observed to have been topped, and numerous freshly cut tree's branches where located along the entirety of the debris path.
An inspection of the engine revealed that it had remained attached to the airframe at all engine mounts. When the crankshaft was rotated by hand, accessory gear and valve train continuity was established. Compression was established at all cylinders. Both magneto drive shafts, when rotated by hand produced a spark from all leads. All spark plugs displayed normal operating signatures. The carburetor was undamaged and removed from the engine. When disassembled no fuel was observed in the carburetor bowl. The linkage moved freely by hand and the inlet screen was void of debris.
The propeller assembly remained attached to the crankshaft flange. The spinner was observed to have obtained impact damage and was crushed over the hub. Propeller blade “A” was loose at the hub. The blade was bent aft at the midsection and had multidirectional scratches on the blade surfaces. Propeller blade “B” had multidirectional scratches and scuffing on the blade surfaces.
The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, the left and right wings, and the engine. The airplane came to rest on its left side and was heavily fragmented. The empennage was separated from the tailcone and located about 100 feet west of the main wreckage.
Control cable continuity was confirmed for each primary and secondary flight control. The flap actuator extension measurement equated to about 15 degrees of flaps. Both wings exhibited impact signatures to their leading edges as a result of impact with trees, and each wing was observed separated from the fuselage at the wing root area.
The fuel selector lever was observed positioned in the right tank position. Both fuel tanks were breached. A residual amount of fuel, similar to that of 100LL, was observed in the firewall fuel strainer bowl.
Investigators found no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures during the examination of either the airframe or the engine.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy on the pilot was performed under the direction of the Mono County Coroner's Office, Lone Pine, California on July 10, 2009. According to the autopsy report, the cause of death was "Multiple traumatic injuries."
Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology reports stated no ethanol, carbon monoxide, cyanide or listed drugs (to include drugs of abuse) were detected.