This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.
On April 15, 2019, about 0900 Alaska daylight time, a wheel/ski-equipped Cessna A185F airplane, N5163E, impacted mountainous terrain about 90 miles north of Nome, Alaska. The airline transport pilot, the sole occupant, sustained serious injuries and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to the U.S. Department of Interior Office of Aviation Services and operated by the National Park Service (NPS) as a public aircraft operation under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Day visual meteorological conditions (VMC) existed at the departure airport, and instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed at the time of the accident. A visual flight rules (VFR) company flight plan was filed and flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed the Ralph Wien Memorial Airport (PAOT), Kotzebue, Alaska, about 0814, destined for the Nome Airport (PAOM), Nome.
During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge, the pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was to relocate from PAOT to PAOM (about 160 nm) to pick up two NPS employees for transport. The pilot reported that he had flown the route from POAT to PAOM many times and was very familiar with the terrain along the route. He recalled that the graphical weather forecast for the area was for marginal VFR, and the forecast for PAOM was 1,900 ft ceilings and 5 statute miles of visibility. While en route, he decided to perform an overflight of the Serpentine Hot Springs area, which was to the west of his anticipated flight route. While maneuvering through an area of mountains terrain, he observed deteriorating weather conditions to the south, and in the direction of his destination. He recalled that he was flying about 1,600 ft mean sea level (msl), heading to the southwest, with a ridgeline close on the right side of the airplane. The pilot stated that he was momentarily looking down at the GPS unit to check a navigation point, and when he looked up, the airplane had entered IMC. He immediately began an instrument scan and verified that the wings were level. He stated that in an attempt to turnaround and return to VMC, he initiated a right turn, momentarily forgetting that terrain was to the right, and the airplane immediately impacted snow covered terrain. During the impact sequence, the left wing separated from the fuselage.
The accident site was located within the boundaries of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve on the Seward Peninsula. A preliminary review of GPS data extracted from a Garmin GPSMAP 296 unit, revealed that about 0900 the airplane impacted a ridgeline at a GPS elevation of about 1,550 ft on a track of 300° true.
The pilot recalled that he woke up inverted secure in the seat restraint harness. He carefully released the harness and egressed the wreckage. He observed heavy snow and wind (IMC) and elected to shelter inside the airplane. He was able to apply battery power to the integral satellite radio on the airplane and call the NPS dispatch center to report the accident and request rescue. The airplane was outfitted with survival equipment that the pilot used while waiting for rescue.
According to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (AKRCC) records, a 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal was received at 0904. The AKRCC coordinated a rescue mission; however, the low visibility delayed rescue until about 1800. The pilot was transported to a medical facility for treatment.
The pilot reported that there were no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.
The closest weather reporting facility to the accident was Deering Airport (PADE), which was about 46 miles northeast of the accident location. At 0853, an automated routine weather observation report indicated the following conditions: wind from 290° at 15 knots, sky condition overcast 1,700 ft, visibility 9 statute miles in light snow, temperature 16°F, dew point 10°F, and altimeter 29.80 inches of mercury.