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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: ANC16FA019
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, April 20, 2016 in Chugiak, AK
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/26/2017
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N63541
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The purpose of the flight was to conduct low-level aerial surveying and photography. A review of Federal Aviation Administration air traffic radar data revealed that the airplane departed the airport in a southerly direction before turning west and then conducted two 360° turns. The airplane then proceeded northeast of the airport for about 4 miles before turning toward the southwest, overflying the intended photography area and continuing past Beach Lake. The airplane then turned east for about 2 miles before the radar track terminated. The airplane was found in a densely wooded area, and a postcrash fire ensued, which consumed a majority of the fuselage.

Examination of the wreckage revealed upward and aft crushing of the leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer, and no scratching or gouging was found, consistent with an in-flight impact with a soft-bodied object. An examination of a complete feather found near the first pieces of debris and samples of organic material that contained several microscopic feather barbs and barbules taken from the left side of the airplane's fuselage and the tail section revealed that they were consistent with that of a Bald Eagle. Given this evidence, it is likely that the airplane impacted one or more eagles in flight and that the pilot subsequently lost airplane control.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The in-flight collision with one or more large birds (Bald Eagle), which resulted in a loss of airplane control.