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N54378 accident description

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Tail numberN54378
Accident dateNovember 18, 1994
Aircraft typeCessna 172P
LocationDeming, NM
Near 32.1 N, -107.58333 W
Additional details: White

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On November 18, 1994, approximately 1110 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172P, N54378, was destroyed while maneuvering near Deming, New Mexico. The commercial pilot and passenger received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local aerial observation flight. No flight plan was filed.

According to an employee at Deming Flying Service, the aircraft departed Deming Municipal Airport, Deming, New Mexico, at approximately 1030 to the Floridas Mountain Range Wilderness Area, southeast of Deming. The passenger chartered the flight to survey hunting areas. A hunter who knew the passenger stated that the intent of the flight was to "fly the mountain" and look for good Ibex hunting spots. The hunter further stated that he saw the airplane heading south down the east side of the Floridas some time after 1000 on the day of the accident. At 1151 the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) received an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) activation signal in the vicinity of Deming. The airplane was located in a remote wilderness area at approximately 1800 by a U.S. Army helicopter and recovery operations ensued.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

A review of airframe and engine records did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects. According to Deming Flying Service records, the airplane last flew on November 6, 1995, and had a Hobbs meter reading of 1054.9. The Hobbs meter reading at the accident site was 1055.3. This information, used in conjunction with the departure time and ELT signal, was used to determine the approximate time of the accident.

WRECKAGE SITE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Utilizing GPS, the site location was latitude 32 degrees 06.9 minutes north and longitude 107 degrees 36.2 minutes west at an elevation of 5,280 feet MSL. The aircraft impacted rising terrain (20 degree slope) on a measured heading of 350 degrees magnetic, and 45 degrees nose down relative to the terrain.

Examination of the airplane and engine did not disclose any structural or mechanical defects. The crankshaft rotated freely and there was continuity to all rocker arms and rear accessory gears. There was compression in all cylinders and both magnetos had impulse. Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to the left and right ailerons and the elevator. Rudder control cable continuity was established from the rudder pedals to the rudder with the exception of about 12 inches under the floor, where the floor and the bottom skin of the aircraft were crushed together. Additionally, the propeller blades exibited leading edge damage and scoring along the chords.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The closest weather reporting facility was 11 miles northwest of the accident site. They reported no significant weather that would effect flight in the local area. However, a representative of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reported that there were "gusty winds of 30 to 35 knots" on the day of the accident on the leeward side of the mountain where the accident occurred. He also reported that the winds were always "strong and gusty" in this area, especially between middle morning and late afternoon hours. He further reported that it was common for wind conditions to be "significantly different in the canyon than those in the area of the weather observation facility at Deming." The BLM representative did not have wind measuring devices at his disposal.

Another weather evaluation was performed 15 miles south of the accident site by U.S. Customs. They determined that the winds aloft at 12,000 MSL were in excess of 55 knots. This prevented them from launching their lighter than air surveillance equipment on the day of the accident.

RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

The aircraft manufacturer's published Pilot Safety and Warning Supplements manual addresses the potential hazards of mountain flying. It states that a pilot should "expect the winds to be of much greater velocity over mountain passes than reported a few miles from them." Additionally, the manual states that a pilot should "approach mountain passes with as much altitude as possible" and "downdrafts of from 1,500 to 2,000 feet per minute are not uncommon on the leeward side" and "severe turbulance can be expected near or above changes in terrain, especially in high wind conditions."

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The autopsy was performed on the pilot by Marcus Nashelsky, M.D. and Ross Zumwalt, M.D., at the Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Toxicology findings were negative.

ADDITIONAL DATA

The wreckage was released to the owner's representative.

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