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N3186U accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Talkeetna, AK
62.323889°N, 150.109444°W

Tail number N3186U
Accident date 29 Jun 1997
Aircraft type Cessna 182F
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On June 29, 1997, about 0912 Alaska daylight time, a wheel equipped Cessna 182F airplane, N3186U, is presumed to have crashed in remote mountainous terrain, about 50 miles northwest of Talkeetna, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) local area personal flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airplane, operated by the pilot, is presumed to have been destroyed. The certificated private pilot and 3 passengers, are presumed to have received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. A flight plan was not filed, nor was one required. The flight originated at Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska, at 0743.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), indicated the pilot obtained a weather briefing at 0726. When preparing to depart, the pilot requested a "Ship Creek" departure from Merrill Field. The departure route, listed in the Merrill Segment of CFR Part 93, provides an avenue of flight toward the northwest, out of the Anchorage Terminal Area. The pilot departed runway 24 at 0743. At 0747, the local controller at the Merrill Field Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), provided a traffic advisory, and a frequency change to the accident airplane pilot. The pilot acknowledged the radio transmission, and no further communication was received from the accident airplane.

The airplane was reported overdue on June 29, 1997, by family members. An alert notice (ALNOT) was issued at 2329.

Family members informed Alaska Rescue Coordination (RCC) personnel the flight was an anniversary gift for the passengers. The pilot planned to conduct a sight-seeing flight that was to circumnavigate Mount McKinley, located in the Alaska Mountain Range.

The accident is presumed to have occurred during the hours of daylight in the area of latitude 63 degrees, 03.35 minutes north and longitude 150 degrees, 57.17 minutes west.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. The most recent third-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on April 25, 1997, and contained the limitation that the pilot must wear corrective lenses.

No personal flight records were located for the pilot and the aeronautical experience listed on page 3 of this report was obtained from a review of the airmen Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records on file in the Airman and Medical Records Center located in Oklahoma City. On the pilot's application for medical certificate, dated April 25, 1997, the pilot indicated that his total aeronautical experience consisted of about 960 hours, of which 30 were accrued in the previous 6 months.


On June 29, 1997, at 0857, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) from Talkeetna, Alaska, was reporting in part: Wind, 210 degrees (true) at 4 knots; visibility, 5 statute miles in haze; clouds, few at 5,000 feet, few at 20,000 feet; temperature, 66 degrees F; altimeter, 30.05 inHg.

The Anchorage Area Forecast, for the Cook Inlet and Susitna Valley, issued on June 29, 1997, at 0750, and valid until 1800, stated, in part: "...Clouds and weather; AIRMET, IFR - (Valid until 1200), from a line west of Skwentna, Alaska, to Soldotna, Alaska, to Anchor Point, Alaska, temporary ceilings below 1,000 feet, visibility below 3 statute miles in mist, stratus cloud tops estimated at 1,500 feet, with improving conditions. Otherwise, scattered clouds at 6,000 feet. Mainly north of Anchorage, after 1400, isolated broken cumulonimbus clouds at 6,000 feet with thunderstorms and rain. Cumulonimbus cloud tops at 28,000 feet. In the Susitna Valley, isolated visibilities of 5 statute miles in smoke... The outlook, valid from 1800 until June 30, 1997, at 1200, VFR... Lake Clark and Merrill Passes, VFR with temporary marginal VFR visibility due to smoke. Rainy and Windy Passes, VFR... Freezing level, 10,000 feet".

At 0853, a METAR from Chulitna, Alaska, located about 38 nautical miles east of the accident area, was reporting in part: Wind, 230 degrees (true) at 5 knots; visibility, 3 statute miles in smoke; clouds, few at 10,000 feet; temperature, 58 degrees F; dew point temperature, 46 degrees F; altimeter, 30.08 inHg.


Review of the air-ground radio communications tapes maintained by the FAA at the Merrill Field facility, revealed that the airplane successively, and successfully communicated with the positions of ground control, and local control. No unusual communications were noted between any FAA facility, and the accident airplane during the review of the tapes.

Continuous data recording (CDR) radar data from the Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), was reviewed by search personnel, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), to determine a possible flight track of the accident airplane. Radar track data from the FAA's radar sites at Kenai, Alaska, and Tatalina, Alaska, recorded a radar track from an aircraft with a 1200 transponder code, and altitude encoding. The radar track was first noted in the area of Goose Bay, Alaska, at 0751. The radar track progressed northbound, over the Big Lake VOR, Willow, Alaska, Talkeetna, Alaska, and then continued over the Ruth and Tokositna Glacier area of McKinley National Park.

At 0912:01, the radar track progressed northbound along the east side of the South Buttress of Mt. McKinley. At 0912:49, the radar track terminated at an elevation of 14,400 feet mean sea level in the area of the East Buttress of Mt. McKinley. Radar data from the FAA's Murphy Dome radar site, located about 12 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska, did not record any radar data exiting the last known position toward the north. It is unknown if the radar track was the accident airplane, but no other radar data matching the anticipated flight profile was located.


No wreckage of the accident airplane was located.


An extensive search effort was coordinated by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center. In addition to electronic, route, area, and airport searches flown by Civil Air Patrol, military, and National Park Service aircraft, RCC personnel developed, and examined several clues during the search. These include a faint electronic locator transmitter (ELT) signal that was heard on July 1, 1997, in an area near the Tokositna and Ruth Glaciers. Search aircraft were unable to locate the source of the signal. On July 2, 1997, a camper reported hearing a radio call on frequency 122.7, in which a person reported being lost. Insufficient information prevented the pinpointing of an accurate location. The same camper reported hearing a sound of a loud bang or boom, in the area of the Ruth Amphitheater. Search aircraft were unable to locate any wreckage.

The search for the airplane was suspended on July 7, 1997, after search personnel conducted over 528 hours of flight activity. RCC personnel determined the search clues, and radar track profile, were consistent with the most likely flight profile of the accident airplane.

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