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Mon, Aug 23, 2010

NTSB: 2-Ship Flight Proceeded Into Bad WX Til One Turned Around -- And Survived

One Did Not... and A CFIT Accident Resulted

There are a number of potential lessons to be learned from the some of the data released as part of NTSB preliminary report... detailing the tragedy that occurred as two aircraft proceeded into deteriorating conditions in rough territory. When the lead aircraft pressed on, the following aircraft's pilot grew wary of the flight and ultimately decided to execute the most important maneuver in EVERY pilot's repertoire... the 180 degree turn. Tragically, the lead aircraft did not and went down in rising terrain... at the end of a canyon.

NTSB Identification: ANC10FA069
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 12, 2010 in McGrath, AK
Aircraft: PIPER PA-18-150, registration: N2413H
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

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.

On August 12, 2010, about 1500 Alaska daylight time, a single-engine Piper PA-18-150 airplane, N2413H, was substantially damaged during a loss of control and subsequent impact with terrain near McGrath, Alaska. The pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The 162 nautical mile cross-country flight originated from Tanana, Alaska, and was en route to McGrath, Alaska.

The accident airplane was lead for a flight of two Super Cubs that had been on a 10 day excursion. The pilot of the second airplane reported that while following the lead airplane towards McGrath, he noticed that the weather was deteriorating in front of them. He stated that the weather to the west and east appeared better; however, the lead plane continued straight ahead towards the Sunshine Mountains and an area of worsening weather. Thinking perhaps that the lead pilot was aware of a pass through the Sunshine Mountains, he continued to follow.

The second pilot said that once they passed the first mountain ridge the weather became turbulent, dark, and rainy, and that both airplanes had to descend to remain clear of clouds. Around this time the pilot of the lead airplane radioed, “buddy are you still with me?” The second pilot responded “barely” and then lost sight of the lead airplane. As soon as the second pilot lost sight of the lead airplane, he radioed that he was “out of here” and turned around. The lead pilot did not respond.

The second pilot further reported that approximately 3 minutes after he turned around he heard a short burst of noise on the radio that sounded like an “open microphone.” He repeatedly attempted to contact the lead pilot to no avail, and eventually continued on to McGrath via a different route. The airplane wreckage was located later that day on rising terrain at the end of a canyon.

PA18 File Photo

The NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) arrived on scene the following day (August 13) and examined the wreckage. The airplane came to rest upright with its nose pointing downhill on a estimated heading of 130 degrees. Impact signatures were consistent with a left wing and nose low impact. There was no evidence of a postcrash fire. All major components were accounted for and control continuity was established to all flight controls. The engine propeller had separated from the engine crankshaft. Both propeller blades exhibited chord-wise scratches and gouges. The outer tips of both propeller blades had been torn off during impact with the rocky terrain. The airplane was not equipped with shoulder harnesses and neither occupant had been wearing a lap belt. In addition, the emergency locator transmitter was found in the “OFF” position.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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