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On August 30, 2010, about 0756 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 182C, N8957T, impacted hilly terrain while in an uncontrolled descent, about 8 miles south-southwest of Belgrade, Montana. The airplane was registered to and operated by Ikarus Aviation, LLC., Salt Lake City, Utah. The airplane was substantially damaged, and the non-instrument rated private pilot was killed. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the vicinity of the accident site, and no flight plan was filed. The business flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight originated from the Ogden-Hinckley Airport (ODG), Ogden, Utah, at an undetermined time after 0500.
The accident pilot was employed as the Director of Maintenance for a fixed base operator (FBO) located at the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), Salt Lake City, Utah. On the day prior to the accident the airplane was completely filled with fuel. About 2100, the pilot flew the airplane from SLC to ODG. He parked the airplane overnight at ODG, which was closer to his residence so as to facilitate his early morning departure the following day.
The pilot retired about 2230, and he awoke at 0450 the following morning. The pilot departed his residence shortly thereafter, drove to ODG, and took off for the business flight that was reportedly not associated with the pilot's principal employment at SLC.
The pilot planned to fly to the Gallatin Field Airport (BZN), Bozeman, Montana. Management at a BZN FBO reported that they had contracted with the pilot to perform maintenance on an aircraft at their facility. The pilot was due to arrive at BZN about 0800.
No radio communications were received from the accident pilot by the local air traffic controller who was on duty at BZN. About 0747, the local controller reported to another airplane that the weather conditions at BZN were a broken ceiling at 700 feet above ground level (agl), and an overcast condition at 1,200 feet agl. The controller informed this pilot that "IFR" (instrument flight rules) weather conditions existed at the airport. BZN's field elevation is 4,473 feet mean sea level (msl).
The accident site was found near the top of a hill, about 8.3 miles south-southwest of BZN and about 4,900 feet msl. About 0800, several persons were located with a 5 mile radius of the accident site. The National Transportation Safety Board investigator interviewed these visual and auditory witnesses. Two witnesses reported observing the accident airplane seconds prior to observing it disappear from their view, and within seconds thereafter they observed a plume of dust propagating upward. Other witnesses only heard what they described as the loud engine sound of a very low flying airplane. Witnesses reported that, at the time of their observation, there were low clouds overhead about 200 feet above ground level and light rain was falling.
The pilot, age 34, was issued a private pilot certificate on April 28, 2001, and he was rated to fly single engine land airplanes. He did not possess an instrument rating. The most recent second class medical certificate was issued on June 20, 2008, without limitations. According to data contained in the pilot's personal flight record log book, he had a total of about 250 flight hours including 150 hours in the Cessna 182 model airplane. During the preceding 90 days the pilot had flown for 15 hours.
The aircraft was a Cessna 182C, serial number 52857. The maintenance records show the airframe had accumulated a total time in service of 4,810 hours as of the last annual inspection, which was endorsed as completed on July 15, 2010. No additional maintenance entries were noted in the logbook past the annual inspection.
A Continental O-4700-L engine, serial number 68051-8L was installed in the airframe. The most recent annual inspection is dated July 15, 2010. The engine is estimated to have accrued 4,810 total hours in service, with about 902 since the last documented major overhaul.
There is no record that the pilot obtained a preflight weather briefing from FAA or National Weather Service sources.
The closest official weather observation station is Bozeman, Montana, airport, which is located about 8 miles nautical miles south-southwest of the accident site. At 0756 hours, the airport’s surface observation was reporting in part: Few clouds at 500 feet, broken clouds at 3,100 feet, and overcast clouds at 3,800 feet. The visibility was 9 miles in light rain showers. Four observations were reported from the airport between 0727 and the 0756 observation, noting rapidly changing visibility and cloud coverage conditions, with ceilings as low as 500 feet and visibilities 1 mile in heavy rain showers.
The forecasts that were available at the time of the flights departure included Airmet Sierra which predicted wide spread areas of ceilings below 1,000 feet and visibilities below 3 miles in rain shows over Montana and Wyoming along the flights route. Mountain obscuration in clouds and precipitation was also forecast.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The Safety Board investigator's examination of the accident site and wreckage revealed the airplane impacted into an open field while in a near vertical nose down attitude. Other than ground scar consistent with the size and shape of the wings, no ground scar was found circumferentially around a 5-foot-deep impact crater that contained the engine and forward cabin area. The propeller assembly remained attached to the engine, and it was excavated from the bottom of the crater. The entire engine and fragmented forward cockpit were also found below ground level. The wings were at ground level, and they exhibited aft crush signatures from their leading edges to their main spars. The wings and landing gear assembly were found nearly directly on top of the crushed cockpit. All of the flight control surfaces were found with the wreckage at the site of the impact crater. There was no fire.
All of the airplane's structural components were found in and adjacent to an estimated 5-foot deep crater. The crater's diameter was about 8 feet. Its location, as determined by global positioning system and estimated elevation is 45 degrees 41.017 minutes north latitude by 111 degrees 15.739 minutes west longitude, and about 4,930 feet mean sea level (msl).
The airplane's two propeller blades were found at the bottom of the crater, below the engine and crushed cockpit. The crushed fuselage was found at the top of the crater, on top of the cockpit. The wings were found at ground level. Wing skin on both wings was either accordioned in an aft direction, or completely separated from the wings. The spars exhibited impact damage in an aft direction and were principally straight in a lateral direction.
An imprint in the ground consistent with the size and location of both wings was noted below remnants of the wings. Red and green fragments consistent with shattered navigation light lenses were found within 3 feet beyond the outboard portion of the wing tips.
The empennage was found a few feet southwest of the crater. The tail's white navigation light was found intact in the tail. The bulb's filament was observed stretched. Less than one dozen fragments of Plexiglas were found southwest of the crater. A few pieces of aluminum skin and a piece of a fuel cell were found near the crater.
The nose gear was found in the crater. The left and right main landing gear were found near the top of the crater.
Based upon deformation to the engine and airframe components, and the orientation of wreckage buried in the crater, the downward angle of impact appeared not less than 60 degrees, and some evidence indicated it was 75 degrees to the horizontal. The airplane's heading, based upon its upright attitude at ground impact and the distribution of the fragmented windscreen was about 188 degrees
No ground disturbance was observed either leading up to or circumferentially around the crater. There was no evidence of fire or oil residue on airplane components.
The Safety Board investigator and participants examined the wreckage on scene and again following recovery. The Federal Aviation Administration coordinator reported finding no evidence of preimpact airworthiness issues with the airplane's structure or systems. The Cessna Aircraft participant reported establishing continuity between the flight control surfaces and the cockpit. The wing flaps appeared to have been in the fully retracted position, based upon an examination of deformation signatures in the wings. Control cable brakes appeared consistent with broomstraw overload signatures. The Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) participant reported all cylinders exhibited normal operation signatures. The spark plugs appeared in serviceable condition. Both magnetos were destroyed. No foreign material was noted in the oil pump's drive gear, and the oil filter appeared clean. The carburetor was fragmented and destroyed. The TCM participant reported finding no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failure or malfunction. The propeller blades exhibited "s" bending, and leading edge gouges.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
On September 1, 2010, an autopsy was performed by the Montana Department of Justice, Forensic Science Division, with specimens retained for toxicological examination. The cause of death was attributed to blunt force injury and the autopsy did not find any evidence of physical incapacitation or impairment that would have adversely affected the pilot's ability to operate the aircraft. Results of toxicology tests on the pilot were negative for all screened drugs and alcohol.