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N25SA accident description

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Tail numberN25SA
Accident dateDecember 06, 2004
Aircraft typeCessna 208B
LocationBellevue, ID
Near 43.35 N, -114.216667 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On December 6, 2004, about 1020 mountain standard time, a Cessna 208B, N25SA, registered to Spirit Air Inc., operated by Mountain Bird Inc., doing business as Salmon Air, Salmon, Idaho, as a 14 CFR Part 135, commercial cargo flight under contract with United Parcel Service, collided with flat open terrain located about seven miles south of Bellevue, Idaho. The flight was designated as Mountain Bird 1860. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The aircraft was destroyed by impact damage and a post-crash fire. The airline transport pilot-in-command and another company airline transport pilot that was on board for the purpose of transportation to his home base, and had no flight crew responsibilities were fatally injured. The flight originated from Salt Lake City, Utah, about one hour and fifteen minutes prior to the accident and was destined for Friedman Memorial (SUN), Hailey, Idaho.

A witness who was working in a field next to the accident site reported that he heard the aircraft first then saw it at a low level below the cloud base flying in a southeasterly direction. The witness stated that the right wing was lower than the left as the aircraft continued to descend. The witness then noted that the wings were moving "side to side" a couple of times before the nose of the aircraft dropped near vertical to the terrain. This witness reported hearing the sound of the engine running steady throughout the event.

Another witness in the area reported only hearing the sound of the engine "accelerate" before hearing a "big boom."

The pilot of a Cessna Citation 525A, N525DG, was interviewed by the investigator-in-charge (IIC) on December 7, 2004. The pilot reported that his flight departed from SUN at 0904. The pilot reported that a light accumulation of snow covered the taxiway and runway during taxi for takeoff. During the climb-out, the pilot noted that visibility to the southeast was between four to five miles and the ceiling was approximately 2,500 feet. The bases of the clouds were about 7,500 feet and the tops were about 9,000 feet and ragged. The pilot reported that during the climb, he activated the engine and wing heat prior to entering the cloud bases. No accumulation of ice was noted on the unprotected areas during the climb.

The pilot of a Cessna Citation 525, N525DR, was interviewed by the investigator-in-charge on December 7, 2004. A written statement was also provided. This pilot reported that he was ahead of the Cessna 208 and flying the same instrument approach to SUN. The pilot reported that from about 12,000 feet to about 8,000 feet, they were in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and "picking up light to occasional moderate rime ice." The flight broke out of IMC and ice accumulation about four to five miles south of the final approach fix (LIBYO). The pilot reported that the ice accumulation started about 40 to 50 miles out from SUN. He stated that the tops of the clouds were about 12,000 feet and the bases from about three miles from the final approach fix were about 7,500 feet to 8,000 feet.

Air traffic control records indicated that N525DR reported over LIBYO (final approach fix) at 0957, and was cleared to land. The aircraft landed at SUN at 0959.


At the time of the accident, the pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate for airplane multiengine land; a commercial certificate for airplane single-engine land; a flight instructor certificate for airplane single-engine, multi-engine and instrument; ground instructor for advanced and instrument, and mechanic certificates for airframe and powerplant.

The pilot was issued a Class 2 Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate on June 15, 2004. A limitation indicated "Must wear corrective lenses."

A review of the pilot's flight logbooks by the NTSB IIC noted a total flight time in all aircraft of 9,757 hours, with 9,277 hours as pilot-in-command (PIC). A total time of approximately 202 hours had been accumulated in the Cessna 208/208A/208B aircraft.

The logbooks indicated that the pilot began flying with Ameriflight, a 14 CFR Part 135 operator in June 1990, and began flight training in the Piper PA 31-350. By July 1990, the pilot was logging the flight as PIC. In January 1991, the logbook indicated the first flight in a Cessna 208A as second-in-command (SIC) and PIC by February. The pilot accumulated a total time of 54.7 hours between January and April 1991, flying in the central to southern California area. The pilot then transitioned to the Beech BE99 aircraft, with flights also in the Piper PA31 and PA32.

The logbook does not indicate flight time in a Cessna 208 again until July 1992 to July 1993. During this period, the pilot flew the Cessna 208, accumulating a total flight time of 25.7 hours, still flying with Ameriflight in the southern California and Arizona areas. In 1993, the pilot also started flying in Utah, Idaho and Colorado.

In April 1994, the logbook noted the pilot's last flight with Ameriflight, followed shortly by a notation of beginning flight in a Beech BE90 for Guardian Air One in Arizona. Several flights were logged before the pilot discontinued flying with Guardian Air One and began flying a Beech BE A90 with Air Adventures Skydiving.

In 1999, the logbook indicated that the pilot started back with Ameriflight in the Piper PA32 and Beech 99 until July 2004, when the pilot signed on with American Aviation flying the Piper PA-31-350 until October 2004.

Personnel records obtained from Salmon Air, indicated that the pilot began employment on October 1, 2004. Basic indoctrination was completed on October 15. The pilot attended and passed the Flightsafety International Caravan 1 (CE-208) 135 Initial/Transition course on October 22. On October 26, the pilot satisfactorily completed the Salmon Air Cessna 208B Caravan check ride.

A review of Salmon Air's training program, Operating Specifications and the flight and ground training records for the pilot, revealed that the program included a section for winter operations. The majority of the program was generic to their fleet of aircraft. One page of information specific to the Cessna 208 Caravan indicated, "The Cessna Caravan's weak point known throughout the industry is its ground icing and/or in-flight icing scenarios." Test questions answered by the pilot also indicated his knowledge of the hazards of ice accumulation on this model aircraft. The training program does not identify specific minimum operating or approach speeds in the event of ice accumulation other than the statement, "Never cycle boots below 130 KIAS-preferably higher. The higher the speed the more effective the boots work."

The operator reported that the pilot was hired to fly a United Parcel Service (UPS) contract, which originates in Salt Lake City, Utah. The pilot's normal work duty was from Monday through Thursday with a typical duty day starting between 0500 and 0530, and ending the day between 1830 and 1900. The route of flight is Salt Lake City to Sun Valley, to Challis, Idaho, to Salmon in the morning as Mountain Bird 1860. In the afternoon, the route is from Salmon to Sun Valley to Salt Lake City as Mountain Bird 1861.

While employed with Salmon Air to the time of the accident, the flight logbook indicated a total flight time of 121.2 hours. Simulator training at Flight Safety indicated 12.8 hours. The flight logbook indicated a total of 23 days with flights into SUN. In the remarks section, two entries were noted that indicated a GPS approach to runway 31 was accomplished at SUN.


The operator followed the Cessna Model 208 Progressive Card Program to accomplish hourly phase maintenance inspections.

The last maintenance logbook entry dated December 3, 2004, indicated a total airframe and engine time of 2,176.4 hours. The aircraft, Cessna model 208B, s/n: 208B0866, was manufactured in 2000, and equipped with a Pratt & Whitney Canada model PT6A-114A free turbine turbo-prop engine, s/n: PCE-PC0826, manufactured in September 2000.

A review of maintenance records and the equipment list, indicated that the aircraft was equipped with pneumatic deicing boots on the wings and wing struts, main landing gear legs and cargo pod nose cap, horizontal and vertical stabilizer leading edges, electrically-heated propeller blade anti-ice boots, electric windshield anti-ice panel, and pitot/static heat system. The wing, wing strut, landing gear, cargo pod and stabilizer de-ice system included an ice detector light and a deice pressure annunciator.

At the time of the accident, the cabin seats had been removed. The most recent weight and balance calculations indicate a maximum landing weight of 8,500 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight of 8,750 pounds. Empty weight without seats was 4,815.6 pounds and a useful load of 3,935 pounds. The load manifest for the flight on the day of the accident indicated a total weight of 1,800 pounds of cargo. The aircraft was fueled with 238 gallons of jet A fuel prior to departure.


At 0408, an electronic computer generated (DUATS) weather briefing was initiated for Mountain Bird 1860. The "Abbreviated Route Weather" quick path service was selected requesting current Surface Observations, Terminal Forecasts, Winds Aloft and NOTAM information for the route from Salt Lake City to Salmon, Idaho. Locations in between were Twin Falls, Idaho (TWF), Sun Valley (SUN) and Challis, Idaho (LLJ).

The National Transportation Safety Board, Operational Factors Division, Washington D.C. evaluated the weather conditions that existed at or near the time of the accident. The Senior Meteorologist reported that weather data was gathered from official National Weather Service (NWS) sources including the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

The surface analysis chart over Idaho depicted winds from the south at 10 knots or less to calm, with overcast skies with several locations depicting continuous light snow.

The weather depiction chart for 1200 indicated visual flight rule conditions were depicted over the accident site. The station model over Hailey indicated broken sky cover with a ceiling of 3,800 feet with light continuous snow.

The radar summary chart for 1019 depicted scattered echoes of light-to-moderate intensity snow over Idaho at the time of the accident, with an area in the immediate vicinity of the accident site.

Surface observations were made by the part-time air traffic control tower controllers who reported at 0945, the SUN surface weather observation was reporting the weather as calm winds. Visibility was six miles with light snow and mist. The sky conditions were scattered at 2,000 feet, broken at 4,500 feet and overcast at 6,000 feet. The temperature was 7 degrees C, and the dew-point was 10 degrees C. The altimeter was 29.71 inches of Hg.

At 1031, the wind was calm, visibility was 4 miles in light snow and mist, scattered clouds at 1,500 feet, ceiling broken at 2,000 feet, overcast at 3,000 feet, temperature was -5 degrees C, dew point was -9 degrees C, altimeter was 29.75 inches of Hg.

The upper air data sounding depicted a moist low-level environment with the Lifted Condensation Level (LCL) at 1,676 feet above ground level (agl) and Convective Condensation Level (CCL) at 3,949 feet agl. The sounding had a relative humidity of 75% or more from approximately 2,000 feet agl to approximately 25,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The sounding indicated a shallow surface based temperature inversion with temperatures remaining below freezing through the depth of the inversion. The sounding indicated favorable for light to moderate rime icing conditions from the LCL to approximately 16,000 feet msl, with surface precipitation in the form of wet snow.

Satellite data images depicted an extensive area of low clouds over the region in an undulating pattern with the cloud rows oriented in a north-to-south direction perpendicular to the low-level winds, with an area of mid-level clouds extending over central Idaho including the accident site.

The area forecast header warned users to see AIRMET Sierra for IFR conditions and mountain obscuration. The accident site was within the boundary for the advisory, which indicated occasional mountain obscurations in clouds, precipitation, fog and mist. AIRMET ZULU was issued at 0847 for icing conditions and was valid until 1400. The advisory warned of occasional moderate rime or mixed icing-in-clouds and in-precipitation below 17,000 feet. The conditions were expected to continue beyond 1400 through 2100.

The NWS grid forecast for potential icing conditions forecast total icing potential for 9,000 feet through 13,000 feet for 1100 on the day of the accident. An area of icing was depicted over southwestern Montana into southern Idaho. The area depicted an approximately 60% chance of icing at 9,000 feet decreasing with height over the area to less than 20% at 13,000 feet.

Local law enforcement personnel reported that this weather system was the first of the season in the area with any notable snow accumulation.


A review of the recorded communications between FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Mountain Bird 1860 indicated that at 0654, the pilot requested and received an IFR clearance to Sun Valley. The controller indicated that the issued clearance was read back correctly.

At 0828, the pilot contacted ground control and requested taxi instructions.

At 0904, Mountain Bird 1860 was cleared for takeoff on runway 34 left and instructed to contact departure control.

At 0906, Mountain Bird 1860 contacted departure control and the aircraft was radar identified.

At 0910, the departure controller instructed the flight to proceed direct to Ogden and then to resume his own navigation via Victor 101.

At 0919, the pilot reported to the Sector 7 controller (Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control) that he was at 10,000 feet and requested to proceed VFR-on-top.

At 0920, Mountain Bird 1860 contacted the Sun Valley tower controller requesting the current weather. The Sun Valley controller reported the wind from 170 degrees at four knots. The altimeter was 29.72 inches Hg. The sky condition was visibility six miles with light snow and mist, scattered at 2,000 feet, broken at 4,500 feet and overcast at 6,000 feet. A Citation who departed 30 minutes prior reported the bases at 7,500 feet and the tops at 9,500 feet.

At 0945, the pilot contacted the Sector 7 controller requesting to climb 500 feet, which was approved.

At 0948, the pilot reported in with the Sector 31 controller that he was VFR-on-top and level at 10,500 feet, followed by a request for clearance to proceed direct to OREYE intersection. The Sector 31controller advised the pilot that the Sun Valley altimeter was 29.71 and that they were cleared direct to OREYE. The controller advised the pilot to expect the RNAV approach.

At 0949, The Sector 31 controller contacted the Sun Valley controller for the current weather at Sun Valley. The Sun Valley controller indicated a calm wind with visibility of six miles and light snow and mist. Scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, a broken ceiling at 4,500 feet and overcast at 6,000 feet. The temperature was minus six degrees C, and the current altimeter setting was 29.73 inches Hg.

At 0950, the Sector R31 controller advised the pilot that the Sun Valley altimeter setting was 29.73.

At 0952, the Sector R31 controller advised the Sun Valley controller that N525DR (Cessna Citation) and Mountain Bird 1860 would both be on the GPS runway 31 approach.

At 1005, the Sun Valley Controller notified the Sector R31 controller that N525DR had landed.

At 1005, the Sector R31 controller notified the pilot that radar contact was lost (Mountain Bird 1860 was about 50 miles south of Sun Valley) and instructed the pilot to contact him 10 miles south of OREYE. The pilot acknowledged the transmission followed by the controller advising the pilot to report leaving 10,000 feet if he was planning on going lower.

At 1006, the pilot contacted the Sun Va

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