On March 10, 2010, about 1500 Alaska standard time, a ski/wheel equipped Cessna A185E, N70039, registered to and operated by a private individual, landed hard during a forced landing near Ophir, Alaska. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight from Takotna, Alaska, to McGrath Airport, McGrath, Alaska. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The commercial certificated pilot and two passengers were not injured. The flight originated from Takotna about 1415.

The pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was to see the Iditarod sled race. The pilot departed Anchorage the day before with full fuel tanks, and flew to Nikolai, Alaska, landing uneventfully; the flight duration was approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. The airplane remained on the ground overnight, and on the accident date was flown from Nikolai to Takotna, remaining on the ground approximately 3 hours. He departed Takotna with approximately 35 gallons of fuel as indicated by the fuel quantity gauges, and flew towards Cripple. About ½ way towards Cripple, he elected to fly to McGrath. The airplane at that time was about 5 miles east of Ophir.

The pilot said that while flying between 500 and 600 feet, the engine suddenly quit. He turned the boost pump to high, moved the fuel selector from the “both” position, and moved the magneto switch in efforts to restore engine power. He was unable to restore power and maneuvered the airplane for a forced landing in a clearing. During a controlled descent, the left wing collided with a tree, causing the airplane to decelerate. The airplane then impacted the ground hard, coming to rest upright in a left wing low attitude. The occupants evacuated the airplane and the pilot radioed on 121.5 MHz announcing that he had performed a forced landing giving his coordinates. The flightcrew of a Chinese airline heard the radio call and relayed that information to air traffic control. The flightcrew of an airplane associated with the Iditarod sled race flew to the accident site area and advised the pilot of the direction of the sled race trail. Prior to leaving the area the pilot noticed fuel leaking from the left wing fuel vent line, which he attempted to stop by turning the firewall fuel shutoff valve to the off position. He and the passengers walked towards the trail and were taken by snowmobile to Ophir.

Because of the remote location of the accident site, an inspection of the airplane by personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was not possible before recovery. The individual who recovered the airplane reported approximately 20 gallons of fuel were drained from the airplane’s fuel tanks. The airplane was later removed from the site and transported to Anchorage, Alaska, for further examination.

Examination of the airplane and engine following recovery by a FAA airworthiness inspector revealed all three propeller blades were bent aft with some leading edge damage. All engine controls and external fluid hoses were secure and properly attached. The engine rotated freely and all accessories exhibited normal motion. The airplane’s fuel system and fuel strainers were examined with no discrepancies noted. No determination could be made as to the reason for the reported loss of engine power.

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