Pilot Was Traveling To Nome To Visit Friends, According To Fiance
The NTSB has released its preliminary report from an accident which occurred on March 5 near Nome, Alaska.
According to the report, on that date at about 2223 Alaska standard time, a wheel-equipped Cessna 172K airplane, N736AS, sustained substantial damage during impact with sea ice in Norton Sound about 10 miles east of Nome, Alaska. The private pilot and sole occupant received fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed along the route of flight, and instrument meteorological condition (IMC) prevailed at the destination. No flight plan was filed.
The flight departed the Wasilla Airport, Wasilla, Alaska at 1710 destined for Nome City Field Airport (94Z), Nome. During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in charge (IIC) on March 7, the pilot's fiancé said that the pilot was going to visit friends in Nome and that he was time limited by his work schedule. She said that at about 1700 she witnessed him fueling the airplane and two fuel containers, for a total of 35.3 gallons, per the fuel company records. She said that the pilot flew this route often, maybe 20 times before, but usually in summer.
During an interview with the NTSB IIC on March 8, a friend of the pilot in Nome said that she was expecting him that night by 2130 and he was planning to land at Nome City Field. The airplane arrived in the Nome area at 2141 and she and the pilot texted back and forth for the remainder of the flight. Prior to making any approaches, the friend texted the weather to be "10 miles 600 over." The pilot texted back "Ok I think I can sneak in," then he proceeded to make four visual approaches to City Field runway 21, as well as circling maneuvers in the area. He texted "one more try" and after he couldn't land, he texted "one more ok" before his last attempt. At 2214 he texted "not happening" and departed the area.
During an interview with the NTSB IIC on March 7, a witness who lives near City Airport saw the airplane making multiple approaches and depart to the east. He also heard a transmission on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) of 123.6 MHz that sounded like "no, no, no" sometime after the airplane departed the area. The concerned witness then listened on 121.5 MHz for an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal, but did not hear one.
The pilot's fiancé reported the airplane overdue at about 0530 on March 6. The FAA issued an ALNOT (alert notice) at 0606 and an area wide airport and radio search was conducted. At about 0959 a Nome Search and Rescue crew located the airplane wreckage about 10 miles east of Nome, on sea ice, near Hastings Creek.
The wreckage consisted of the entire airplane in a vertical nose down attitude. The Garmin GPSMAP 296 device was recovered and downloaded by the NTSB IIC. The Garmin GPS data indicates that the airplane took off from Wasilla at 1710 and made no enroute stops. The data shows an airplane track that included four approaches to Nome City Airport runway 21, some maneuvering in the area, then a departure to the east. The total GPS distance flown was 596 statute miles and total GPS time 5.3 hours. The last data point was at time 2223 and indicated the airplane at a groundspeed of 42 mph and 373 feet GPS altitude near the wreckage location.
According to the FAA Alaska Chart Supplement, the Nome City Field Airport has no lighting and is not plowed in winter. About one mile to the west is Nome Airport, which does have runway and approach lighting and is fully maintained. The pilot held a current FAA Third Class Medical Certificate that stated the restriction "not valid for night flying or by color signal control."
The Cessna 172K Pilot Operating Handbook indicates a maximum fuel capacity of 52 U.S. gallons and usable fuel of 49 U.S. gallons. The actual fuel quantity for this flight is unknown.
The closest weather reporting facility is Nome Airport, Nome, Alaska, about 11 miles west of the accident site. At 2204, an aviation special weather report (SPECI) from the Nome Airport was reporting in part: Wind calm; sky condition, overcast 400 feet; visibility, 10 statute miles; temperature -21 degrees C; dewpoint -22 degrees C; altimeter, 30.49 inHg. Official sunset was 1933.
(Source: NTSB. Image from file. Not accident airplane)