CEN12LA060
CEN12LA060

On November 11, 2011, about 1900 central standard time, a Cessna 180, N3606C, impacted a pole during a precautionary landing on a highway near Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the private pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Night visual flight rules conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, which operated without a flight plan. The flight departed the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (EAU), near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, about 1640, and was destined for the Crystal Airport (MIC), near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The pilot reported that he departed MIC about 1430 to 1500 for a sightseeing flight along the St. Croix River to La Crosse, Wisconsin. He stated that he did not intend to land at La Crosse. The pilot added he stopped to refuel at Rice lake, Wisconsin, before he started his return to MIC when dusk conditions began.

While en route during the return flight, the airplane had a loss of electrical power rendering the cockpit “virtually black.” The pilot used a flashlight to illuminate the cockpit as he looked for a diversion airport for over an hour. After not finding a nearby airport, he elected to perform a precautionary landing on roadway. The pilot reported that the “tailwheel castored”, it hit an obstacle, “and did a fair amount of damage to the airplane”. The pilot listed no other mechanical malfunctions in his report other than the loss of electrical power. The pilot was asked if he flown anywhere else and he reported that he did not land at any other airport other than Rice Lake.

However, the manager of the fixed base operator (FBO) at EAU reported that the accident airplane had landed there around 1620. The pilot asked an FBO employee which airport this was. The pilot was told he was at EAU. According to the manager, the pilot said that he had originated from the La Crosse area and that he was trying to get to Stillwater, Minnesota. The FBO staff pointed out the general direction toward Stillwater. According to the FBO manager, the pilot seemed shocked when he discovered that there was a control tower at the airport and realized that he had landed without any radio communication.

According to the manager, the pilot said that his airplane’s engine was flooded. He could not get his engine started and accepted the manager’s assistance to get the airplane started. The pilot asked which direction was north and the manager pointed west and replied that west was the direction to Stillwater. The manager stated that he reminded the pilot to contact the control tower and depart to the west. The pilot taxied the airplane out about 1640 without contacting the control tower and the next time the manager heard about the pilot was after the pilot landed the airplane on the highway.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the wreckage on-scene and confirmed the substantial damage to the left wing. A subsequent examination revealed that the airplane’s battery had a low power state.

At 1956, the recorded weather at EAU was: wind 190 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 3 degrees C; dew point -3 degrees C; altimeter 29.62 inches of mercury.

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