On September 2, 2012, at 1415 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 182P, N5981J, owned and operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, collided with the terrain while landing at the Luce County Airport (KERY), Newberry, Michigan. The airline transport rated pilot sustained serious injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged by impact and a postimpact fire. The public use flight was being operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from KERY at 1257.

The pilot reported he was on a routine fire detection mission and was about 10 to 12 miles from the airport when he detected a “hot electrical” odor. He stated that everything was operating normally with the airplane at the time, but he was concerned enough that he radioed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and told them he was going to return to KERY.

The pilot reported he entered the traffic pattern for runway 11 at KERY and set up for a stabilized approach to the runway. He reported the air was a little choppy and there was some convective turbulence in the area. While on final approach at a distance of 400 to 500 feet from the approach end of the runway, a large puff of smoke was rapidly emitted from under the right side of the instrument panel under the circuit breaker panel. This momentarily distracted him. At almost the same time, the airplane encountered convective turbulence that was severe enough that he hit his head on the ceiling and everything that was on the seats was thrown forward. He stated the turbulence extended his distraction. When he looked forward and turned his attention back to the airplane, the nose was down and all he could see was grass out of the windscreen. The airplane immediately hit the ground.

The nose gear broke off upon impact and the airplane slid forward up onto the runway. It continued to slide about 200 feet before stopping. By the time the airplane came to a stop, there were flames coming up into the cockpit. He suspected the flames were at least in part from damage sustained in the impact.

The pilot exited the airplane at which time he noticed his legs were burned. The airplane continued to burn. The fuselage aft of the firewall back to the empennage and the inboard section of both wings was consumed by fire. The empennage was present, but it sustained a substantial amount of damage from the fire. Due to the amount of fire damage, the cause of the electrical smell and subsequent smoke could not be determined.

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