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N8835U accident description

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Tail numberN8835U
Accident dateJanuary 25, 1997
Aircraft typeCessna 172F
LocationConrad, PA
Near 41.53333 N, -77.85 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On January 25, 1997, approximately 1825 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172F, N8835U, was destroyed when it descended through trees and impacted terrain while in cruise flight near Conrad, Pennsylvania. The certificated private pilot sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions were reported at the point of departure and no flight plan was filed. The personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91 originated at the University Park Airport (UNV) in State College, Pennsylvania, at 1749, with an intended destination of Elmira/Corning Regional Airport (ELM) Elmira, New York, approximately 90 miles to the northeast of UNV.

The pilot flew from Elmira to State College on January 25, 1997, and arrived at State College approximately 1500. The purpose of the trip was to visit his son at school. According to his son, the pilot described the flight to State College as "..rough, windy and bumpy the whole way. He said he was tired. He was a little excited about the wind speed. He was less than thrilled about the rough air. ... He said he was dodging cumulus [clouds] most of the way."

The pilot received a telephonic weather brief for a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight approximately 1700 from the Altoona Flight Service Station (FSS) for the return flight to ELM. The briefer advised the pilot "...that a VFR was not recommended now until zero three hundred zulu (2000 EST) ... this airmet sierra shows that there's a possibility of mountains occasionally obscured [by] clouds, precipitation, fog, or mist." The briefer further advised that winds forecast along the proposed route of flight were "quite strong". Winds forecast were from 260 degrees at 39 knots at 3,000 feet, and from 280 degrees at 48 knots at 6,000 feet.

The airplane failed to land at the Elmira Airport and a search was initiated by the Civil Air Patrol. The aircraft wreckage was found in mountainous terrain by a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter on January 27, 1997, at 0932.

The wreckage was discovered approximately 15 miles west of the pilot's intended course. An examination of radar data revealed N8835U traveled in a northerly direction with several heading deviations as great as 270 degrees. The final heading divergence began with a left turn of approximately 180 degrees. The radar track then depicted a descending right-hand spiral that terminated in the vicinity of the accident site. Enroute altitude varied throughout the flight. Altitudes depicted ranged from 3,200 feet to 4,100 feet.

The accident occurred at night approximately 41 degrees 32 minutes North latitude, 77 degrees 51 minutes West longitude, at 2100 feet.

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot's Private Pilot Certificate was issued July 17,1996. He held ratings for airplane single engine land.

The pilot's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Third Class Medical Certificate was issued on March 17, 1995.

According to the pilot's logbook, he had a total flight experience of 111 flight hours with 9 hours of night time, 1.3 hours of simulator time, and no hours of actual instrument time logged. The pilot did not posses an instrument rating.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The maintenance records for the airplane were not recovered.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Weather at Bradford Regional Airport, 36 miles northwest of the accident site, was reported as: scattered clouds at 2000, ceiling 2700 broken, 4000 overcast, visibility 2.5 miles with snow and the wind from 270 degrees at 11 knots gusting to 21 knots. Williamsport/Lycoming County Airport, 46 miles east of the site reported: few clouds at 4800, visibility 10 miles with the wind from 270 at 17 knots gusting to 26 knots. Peak wind was reported from 280 at 35 knots.

In a written statement, a Pennsylvania State Police Sergeant reported riding in a 5,000 pound pickup truck in the vicinity of State College at the time N8835U departed UNV. He said, "... the winds were gusting very high, which caused my wife to remark, 'This is the worst wind that I ever had to drive in.' The truck was continually buffet[ed] by the wind which caused my wife to have to make corrections to remain in the right lane. ... There was intermittent snow squalls during this time."

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was examined at the site on January 28, 1997. From the time of the accident, to the time of the examination, snow had fallen on the wreckage. All major components were accounted for at the scene. There was no evidence of fire. The airplane rested on its left side on a magnetic heading of 284 degrees, at a ground elevation approximately 2,100 feet mean sea level.

The wreckage path was identified in 1 foot increments called stations. The wreckage path was measured from the first tree impact scars, station zero, to the last piece of wreckage, the airplane engine, at station 342. Tree impact scars became progressively lower on the trees in the direction of the cabin wreckage on flat terrain, on top of a 2,100 ft. ridge. The tree scars indicated a general direction of 284 degrees and displayed angular cut branches. Several pieces of airplane cowling and sheet metal were suspended in the trees and scattered across the ground along the tree impact flight path. The odor of fuel was present at the site.

The inboard and outboard sections of the left wing were at stations 135 and 183 respectively. There were concave dents along and perpendicular to the leading edge of the wing. The right wing was disintegrated along the wreckage path. A section of the wing that contained the right fuel tank was at station 249. An undetermined amount of fuel was noted in the tank. The right wing flap was at station 264. The tail section, at station 231, was separated from the fuselage and destroyed by impact.

The main fuselage was at station 288. The flight control surfaces, cabin doors, and engine were not attached. The cockpit and cabin areas were destroyed by impact. The cabin roof was separated at the windshield posts and crushed aft beyond the rear windows. Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit to the points of flight control surface separation. All cables appeared to have failed in overload.

The engine, with propeller attached, was at station 342. Both propeller blades displayed similar twisting, chordwise scratching and leading edge gouging. One propeller blade was bent around the engine case. The carburetor was broken off and crushed during the accident sequence. The engine was removed from the site and examined in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 18, 1997.

TESTS AND RESEARCH

Examination of the airplane engine was supervised by an FAA Airworthiness Inspector and revealed no pre-impact anomalies. Power and valvetrain continuity was established rotating the propeller by hand. Compression was verified on 5 of 6 cylinders using the thumb method. Compression was not determined on the #5 cylinder due to impact damage to the intake valve. Magneto timing was determined to meet the manufacturer's specifications and both magnetos produced spark through all leads.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on January 29, 1997, by Dr. Eric L. Vey, of the Potter County Coroner's Office, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed negative for drugs and alcohol for the pilot.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The airplane wreckage was released on February 1, 1997, to A.J. Feidler, a representative of the owners insurance company.

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