Plane crash map Find crash sites, wreckage and more

N1324M accident description

Go to the Washington map...
Go to the Washington list...

Tail numberN1324M
Accident dateOctober 23, 1998
Aircraft typeCessna 182P
LocationDeming, WA
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 23, 1998, about 1400 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 182P, N1324M, registered to and operated by the U.S. Border Patrol as a Public Use flight, collided with trees and subsequently the mountainous terrain near Deming, Washington. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and the flight was utilizing agency flight following. The aircraft was destroyed by impact damage and a post-crash fire. The commercial pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated from Bellingham, Washington, about one hour prior to the accident.

U.S. Border Patrol personnel reported that the purpose of the flight was for routine surveillance of the local area.

Shortly after takeoff from Bellingham International Airport, Bellingham, Washington, the pilot responded to a call and assisted with aerial support near the U.S./Canadian border. When the aerial support was no longer required, the pilot cleared the area, and continued his surveillance activities.

U.S. Border Patrol personnel reported a routine route of flight for surveillance activities over the mountainous terrain east of Bellingham. The pilot was known to fly from Bellingham, east to the Nooksack River Valley. In the Deming area, the pilot would turn northbound up the North Fork Nooksack River to the U.S/Canadian Border, then westbound to the coast and then southbound into Bellingham. Another route of flight could be a southbound turn at Deming along the South Fork Nooksack River to Lake Whatcom before returning northbound to Bellingham. Surveillance points along the route of flight would be observed from a high enough altitude so as not to attract attention.

Shortly after 1400, a helicopter pilot flying in the area of Deming, reported that smoke was observed along the southwest side of Sumas Mountain. The pilot went to investigate and found the accident aircraft engulfed in fire. The approximately 30 degree sloping terrain was covered with dense forest. It was noted that the tops of several trees, located downhill from the main wreckage, were broken off. A passenger on board the helicopter took an aerial video of the accident site which confirmed visual conditions. The smoke from the wreckage was rising nearly straight up.

A witness, who was traveling on a dirt road located about one mile northwest of the accident site, stated that he observed the aircraft flying at about 800 feet above ground level in an eastbound direction. The witness stated that the aircraft was flying straight and level and traveling about 90 knots. The witness lost sight of the aircraft behind trees for about five seconds. The witness stated that when he came out from behind the trees, he saw a fireball that was in line with the airplane's direction of travel and about the same height that was consistent with the airplane's altitude.

Other witnesses observed or heard an aircraft in the Nooksack River Valley shortly before the time of the accident.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

At the time of the accident the pilot held a commercial certificate with ratings for single-engine land aircraft, helicopter and instrument flight. The pilot's flight logbook was not located. However, records provided by the U/S. Border Patrol indicated that the pilot had accumulated a total flight time of approximately 8,450 hours.

The pilot held a class II medical dated August 26, 1998. A limitation indicated that the holder shall wear correcting lenses.

COMMUNICATIONS

The Senior Patrol Agent working in the communication center located at the Blaine Sector Headquarters stated that at about 1300, the pilot, who was already in the air, responded to a call of a sensor trip at the border on Markworth Road, Lynden, Washington. Agents were on the ground and also responding. At 1332, the pilot advised the communication center that a logging vehicle was observed in this area. The agent on the ground stated that he observed the aircraft flying in the area at about 500 to 600 feet above ground level, before leaving the area. The agent on the ground stated that he transmitted to the pilot that fog was rolling in from the west. The pilot did not respond to the transmission. There was no further record of contact from the pilot to the communication center.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The wreckage was located at approximately the 1,100 foot elevation on the southwest face of Sumas Mountain. The terrain was heavily wooded with trees of varying height up to about 50 feet. Low brush covered the soft ground. The wreckage distribution path was measured on a magnetic heading of 80 degrees. The terrain angle in the immediate area of the accident site was estimated as 30 degrees.

The beginning of the wreckage distribution path was located about 60 feet below the main wreckage. Six trees with approximately eight-inch diameter trunks displayed impact damage to their tops. The tops of these trees were sheered off. The tops of the trees were found at the tree bases. Small pieces of metal and Plexiglas fragments were found in this area. Small fragments of metal with a section of control cable were snagged in the branches of one of the trees. The damage to the tree tops was consistent with the aircraft traveling in an approximately straight-and-level attitude and continuing until collision with the upsloping terrain.

The outboard nine feet of the left wing was located about 40 feet uphill from the sheered trees. An impact signature was noted on the leading edge about three feet from the separation point. The aileron remained attached to its respective hinges. The left side lift strut had separated at both attachment ends and was found near this section of the wing. The strut was bent about 30 degrees and displayed an impact signature along its leading edge about one foot from the wing attachment fitting. The remaining inboard section of the left wing and flap were found at the main wreckage and had been consumed by the post-crash fire.

The remaining ten-foot section of the empennage was located about 50 feet into the wreckage distribution path. Heat distress was noted to the outside skin surface. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers remained attached. The outboard half of the left side horizontal stabilizer and elevator was bent upward. Impact signatures were noted along the leading edge. The right side horizontal stabilizer remained intact with the elevator attached at all three attach points. Leading edge impact damage was noted at the tip. The leading edge of the vertical stabilizer displayed impact damage signatures. Brown transfer scratches were noted along the right side of the vertical stabilizer which traveled aft to the rudder. The rudder remained attached at the middle and lower attach points. The upper attach point had been pulled aft. Control continuity was established from the tail forward to the cabin area.

The cabin and cockpit area was positioned about ten feet uphill from the empennage. Fire completely consumed the cabin and cockpit. The right wing was found in three sections located on the east of the cockpit and engine. The wing was mostly consumed by fire. Sections of the burned right aileron and flap were noted. The right side lift strut was found under the remains of the cockpit/cabin area. Two impact signatures were noted along the leading edge.

The engine, with firewall still attached, was found positioned upright and displaying severe heat distress. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft flange. The propeller blades were partially melted at the tips. The blades displayed "S" bending and rearward deformation. Both propeller blades displayed chordwise striations along their blade backs.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Gary Goldfogel, M.D. Whatcom County Medical Examiner, Bellingham, Washington, reported that the pilot's cause of death was due to blunt cranial trauma. The body was extensively burned and no body fluids were available for analysis. The trachea and main stem bronchi were void of soot, smoke or carbonaceous debris. The coroner reported that the heart was without evidence of traumatic injury. There was no evidence of developed myocardial scars. The cardiac valves remained and contained no observable abnormalities. Further study of a section of the coronary artery revealed evidence of atherosclerotic plaque. The coroner reported that "The integrity of the vessel in this location is unclear and the possibility of acute thrombosis of coronary atherosclerosis is not excluded with certainty."

Toxicological samples were sent to the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for analysis. Testing for carbon monoxide and cyanide could not be performed due to lack of suitable specimens. No ethanol was detected in muscle and kidney samples. No drugs were detected in kidney samples.

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

United States Border Patrol agents and personnel who came in contact with the pilot on the morning of the accident were interviewed. That morning, the pilot arrived at the Blaine, Washington, Sector Headquarters, and talked with several people while there. All interviewed individuals stated that they did not notice anything unusual about the pilot. He appeared well rested and he did not state that anything physically was wrong. The pilot did not mention any problems with the aircraft. The pilot was at sector headquarters for about two hours.

After the wreckage was recovered and transported to the U.S. Border Patrol's hangar at the Bellingham Airport, the engine was inspected. The valve covers for cylinders 1, 2, 4, and 6 were burned. The valve covers and cylinders for 1, 2 and 4 were severely burned, exposing the intake and exhaust valves. Severe impact damage was noted to cylinder head number 2. Due to the impact damage, the crankshaft would not rotate. The accessory section was destroyed by fire damage. Both magnetos displayed heat distress and impact damage. The oil pan was partially burned away and displayed upward crushing. The spark plugs were removed and normal operating signatures were noted. The carburetor was destroyed.

The wreckage was released to the U.S. Border Patrol on October 28, 1998. At that time, the wreckage was secured in a hangar at the Bellingham Airport.

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