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N6267R accident description

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Tail numberN6267R
Accident dateOctober 05, 1996
Aircraft typeCessna 172RG
LocationGrand Canyon, AZ
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 5, 1996, at 0853 hours mountain standard time, a Cessna 172RG, N6267R, collided with trees and terrain during departure climb out, 5 miles north of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, airport. The aircraft was destroyed and the private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a VFR flight plan had been filed to Page, Arizona.

The operator of the rented aircraft told the NTSB investigator that the pilot and his passengers departed from his base of operations at Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona, on October 4, 1996, about 1300. The aircraft had flown 2.0 hours from when it departed Mesa to the time of the accident. The operator speculated that the pilot had flown directly to the Grand Canyon and, after remaining overnight, was departing to Page at the time of the accident. The aircraft was scheduled to return to Mesa at 1700 on October 5, 1996.

On the morning of the accident the aircraft was fueled to capacity at Grand Canyon before departure. The pilot had originally ordered the addition of 3 gallons of fuel in each of the aircraft's two fuel tanks (6 gallons total), but during the fueling, for unknown reasons, he instructed the fueler to "top off" the fuel and a total of 18 gallons was pumped on board.

The pilot was cleared for takeoff from the departure end of runway 3 at 0845. Runway 3 is 8,999 feet long and slopes uphill at a 0.7 percent gradient. The terrain north of the airport slopes uphill at approximately 80 feet per mile.

After takeoff (at 0846), the controller in the Grand Canyon Air Traffic Control Tower observed the aircraft at a low altitude and asked the pilot if he was having any difficulty. The pilot replied that he was "unable to climb" the aircraft. The controller suggested a more northerly course over lower terrain and asked the pilot what his intentions were. The pilot replied that he was following the road [highway 64] and "if unable to climb will land on the road." At 0848, he radioed that the aircraft was climbing 100 feet per minute, but at 0850 reported "negative rate of climb."

Another aircraft had been cleared for takeoff behind the accident aircraft. The pilot of that aircraft reported that the accident aircraft (ahead) was having trouble climbing after takeoff; the airplane would start to climb and then sink back down toward the runway. This pilot delayed starting her takeoff roll until she was certain the runway ahead would remain clear for her departure. When the accident aircraft reached the departure end of the runway she took off. The tower asked the pilot of the second aircraft to follow the aircraft ahead and below and keep him (the tower controller) informed of the first aircraft's situation. In the ensuing 3 to 4 minutes the pilot of the accident aircraft repeated that he was unable to climb and that he might land on the road. At 0848, the pilot of the accident aircraft radioed "Still unable to climb, what do you suggest, landing on road or continuing?" The tower controller recommended that he remain airborne "if you have a positive rate of climb," and the pilot of the following aircraft radioed "if they're unable to climb, I would land on the road."

The aircraft disappeared from the view of the tower behind terrain, and in response to a status request from the tower, the following pilot reported the aircraft was flying at treetop level along the road. At 0851, she radioed the tower that the plane ahead had crashed and that it was on fire. At 0854, she radioed that rescue vehicles had arrived.

A park ranger who witnessed the accident noted that a red car traveling north on the two-lane highway in front of the aircraft may have influenced the pilot's ability to land on the highway. The pilot of the second aircraft, however, opined that the pilot crashed when he simply had no other choice.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to the pilot's logbook, The pilot received his private pilot license on September 13, 1996, when he had total flying time of 96.1 hours. He added a multiengine land rating on September 25, 1996, when he had 127.7 hours. He checked out in the accident aircraft on September 29, 1996, in 1.2 hours, and flew the aircraft three more times prior to the accident flight. At the time of the accident, his total flying time was 141.1 hours with 12.1 hours in the Cessna 172RG type aircraft.

The pilot's training was conducted at Scottsdale, Arizona, and all destinations listed in the pilot logbook were below 2,000 feet msl, except for three flights to Flagstaff, Arizona (elevation 7,011 feet) and one to Holbrook, Arizona (elevation 5,257 feet). On August 5, 1996, a dual instructional flight was flown from Scottsdale to Flagstaff and return in a Cessna 172. On August 7, 1996, the same route was flown solo in a Cessna 172, and on August 10, 1996, Flagstaff was again visited solo in a Cessna 172 as part of a cross-country from Scottsdale to Holbrook (P14) to Flagstaff to Scottsdale.

Among the items found in the wreckage were notes from pilot training/ground school. One page, dated September 13, 1996, is a weight and balance calculation labeled SDL - FLG (Scottsdale to Flagstaff). According to the pilot's logbook, September 13 was the date of his private pilot check ride and he did not actually go to Flagstaff on that date. Two other (fire damaged) weight and balance calculations were also found for a heavier aircraft.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

No record of mechanical discrepancies (squawks) was maintained by the operator; however, another pilot who flew the last previous flight of the aircraft on the evening of October 2, 1996, reported that there were no discrepancies with the aircraft when he flew it.

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS

At 0853, the Grand Canyon weather was: sky clear; visibility greater than 10 miles; temperature 61; dew point 43; wind from 060 degrees at 6 knots; and the altimeter setting was 30.30. The density altitude was 8,100 feet.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The aircraft impacted on the west shoulder of state highway 64, about 5 miles north of the Grand Canyon Airport at latitude 36 degrees, 02.74 minutes north and longitude 112 degrees, 07.18 minutes west (GPS). The elevation is approximately 7,000 feet, and the area surrounding the two-lane highway on both sides is populated by a forest of 30- to 50-foot-tall pine trees. In the distance to the accident site from the departure end of runway 3, the terrain rises approximately 400 feet, and highway 64 is sloping uphill about 10 percent in the area of the accident.

The first observed point of impact was 180 feet south of the main wreckage location where the top of a tree was damaged. The upper portion of the tree extended over the shoulder of the road and was broken off about 30 feet above its base where the tree was about 6 inches in diameter. Two more trees in line to the wreckage showed fresh damage, and the aircraft's right elevator, elevator mass balance, and portions of the horizontal stabilizer/elevator hinge brackets were found in this area.

The remainder of the aircraft was at the wreckage location. The aircraft came to rest on a westerly heading with the nose against a tree and the empennage laying in the southbound traffic lane of the highway. The fuselage was resting on its right side with the right wing separated, but lying adjacent to the fuselage. There was a postcrash fire which, according to witnesses, started about 15 seconds after the impact. According to a park ranger, the airport control tower notified the park ranger station of an aircraft in trouble minutes before the crash and, therefore, the fire department response was prompt and the fire was extinguished within about 5 minutes. The fire burned the forward fuselage, cabin area, and the entire left wing. The pitot tube and left wing strut attach fitting were found in the cabin area debris.

There were scrape marks on the right side of the aft fuselage in front of the horizontal stabilizer. The stabilizer was separated from the fuselage, except for the aft spar which remained attached, and was bent aft about 75 degrees. The scrape marks on the aft fuselage were angled approximately 15 degrees to the right with respect to the nose of the aircraft.

The tree at the nose of the aircraft exhibited a scar which removed the bark and about 1/2 inch of the tree core material. The scar was about 1 foot in diameter, and was located 2 feet above ground level on the south face of the tree.

One blade of the propeller assembly exhibited a smooth forward bend between the root of the blade and about the 24-inch station. The radius of the bend was approximately that of the adjacent tree and wood debris was imbedded at the base of the blade where it joins the hub. The same blade exhibited leading edge damage over about 3 inches near the tip. The other blade was undamaged and neither blade showed torsional twisting or chordwise striations.

The engine was fire damaged and the propeller shaft was bent to the side corresponding to the damaged propeller blade. The propeller shaft was broken over about 70 percent of its circumference on the side opposite the bend. The air filter, hoses, baffling, and cowling were destroyed by fire. The magnetos, also damaged by fire, did not produce a spark when rotated by hand or with the impulse coupling. The engine was mechanically continuous and manual rotation of the prop shaft produced rotation in the accessory case, thumb compression, and valve action. The spark plug electrodes were clean and exhibited a light gray color.

The carburetor was broken from the engine at the carburetor base and the throttle valve (plate) was in the fully closed position. There was soot covering the throttle plate and the adjacent throat area on one side of the plate. No fuel was found in the carburetor. The mixture cable was separated from the mixture control arm.

A disassembly inspection of the engine was performed at the Textron Lycoming factory on January 16, 1997, and was witnessed by Mr. Robert Stockslager of the New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, Flight Standards District Office. The inspection report is attached and concludes that the inspection "did not produce any evidence that the engine was not capable of running and producing [power] prior to the accident."

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Autopsies were performed on the pilot by the Coconino County Medical Examiner. Toxicological tests were performed on the pilot by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology test was negative for drugs, ethanol and cyanide; however, a 10 percent Carboxyhemoglobin level (carbon monoxide) was detected in the blood.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

A weight and balance calculation for the aircraft at takeoff was prepared by the Cessna Aircraft Company party representative to the investigation and is attached to this report. The weights used to determine the takeoff gross weight of the aircraft are based upon the aircraft's current empty weight and balance (as determined from records in the wreckage), and the actual weights of occupants and personal effects weighed after the accident, and make no allowance for the effects of the fire. The occupant weights are those made by the coroner during the autopsy and make no allowance for clothing or fluid loss. The baggage weight (75 pounds) was determined by weighing the luggage and personal equipment items in the wreckage after drying. Among the luggage was a 1-gallon water can, a 1/2 gallon orange juice container (seal unbroken), and a 16-ounce soft drink container, all of which were ruptured and the contents gone. The calculation shows that the aircraft weighed 2,740 pounds at takeoff, and the center of gravity was at 44.5 inches aft of datum. According to the airplane flight manual, the maximum certificated takeoff weight is 2,650 pounds with the center of gravity limits between 39.5 and 46.5 inches.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The NTSB released the aircraft wreckage to American Eagle Insurance Company (Mr. Marvin Rogge, Adjuster) on February 18, 1997.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.