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N52103 accident description

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Crash location 61.521667°N, 149.540277°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Wasilla, AK
61.581389°N, 149.439444°W
5.3 miles away

Tail number N52103
Accident date 24 Jun 2007
Aircraft type Cessna 177RG
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On June 24, 2007, about 1230 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna 177RG airplane, N52103, received substantial damage when it collided with terrain during final approach at the Wasilla Airport, Wasilla, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by Aero Tech Flying Service, Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, as a visual flight rules (VFR) instructional flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The commercial certificated flight instructor, and the private certificated student pilot received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane departed Merrill Field, Anchorage, Alaska, about 0845. The airplane impacted terrain about 100 yards short of the approach end of runway 03. There are no known witnesses to the accident.

During an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on June 25, the owner of the flying service said the student was a private certificated pilot working on his commercial certificate. He said the private pilot had given himself a very short time to complete the transition training for his commercial certificate. He had already passed his commercial written test, and scheduled the check ride. The owner said he was at the airport when the airplane departed, and said the flight instructor told him they were going to be doing pattern work at Merrill Field. He said the airplane left the pattern, and he presumed they went elsewhere to find a higher ceiling due to low clouds in the local area. The owner did not know they had gone to Wasilla, until the accident was reported to him. He said occasionally his instructors would go to Wasilla when the local weather deteriorated.

According to logbook entries and the training schedule, the flight instructor and private pilot had spent the previous day's training practicing the commercial maneuvers required for the commercial pilot check ride, while flying off the 10 hours complex airplane time requirement for the commercial certificate.


The certificated flight instructor was found in the right front seat, and the private pilot was found in the left front seat. Both pilots received fatal injuries.


The airplane received substantial damage during impact with terrain.


According to flight school and FAA records, the flight instructor received his instructor's certificate on July 12, 2006. The instructor had about 487 hours of total flying experience. Of those hours, 172 hours were as a flight instructor, 53 hours were in complex airplanes, 36 of which were in the same model as the accident airplane. He completed a biennial flight review on July 12, 2006, and was issued an FAA class 1 medical certificate on December 20, 2004. He was required to wear corrective lenses.

According to FAA documents and logbook entries, the private pilot had about 664 hours of total flying experience, with about 7 of those hours in complex airplanes. He was issued an FAA class 3 medical certificate on September 1, 2006.


The accident airplane was a 1987 model year, single engine, retractable landing gear, Cessna Cardinal 177RG. The airplane's last annual inspection was completed on January 3, 2007, and at that time the airplane had accumulated 5,737 total flying hours. According to the owner, at the time of the accident there were no known or documented mechanical issues with the airplane. The airplane's maintenance logbooks were examined by the IIC, and no discrepancies were noted.


There is an automated weather reporting station at the accident airport. The accident is believed to have occurred about 1230. The automated weather observation at 1236, reported; wind calm, visibility 10 miles, ceiling overcast at 7,000 feet, temperature 53 degrees F, dew point 46 degrees F, and altimeter setting 29.89 inches. For several hours following and preceding that observation, the winds varied from 0 to 4 knots, the visibility remained 10 miles, the ceiling varied between 6,000 and 7,000 feet agl, and the temperature and altimeter setting remained constant.


There are no known communications with the accident airplane's pilot after leaving Merrill Field, which is a tower controlled airport.


The Wasilla Airport is an uncontrolled, unattended, public airport, about 3 miles west of the city of Wasilla. The published airport traffic pattern for runway 03 is right hand traffic, which is on the south side of the airport. The north side of runway 03 is ascending, tree-covered terrain. The final approach to runway 03 is over descending terrain cleared of vegetation, giving the runway the appearance of sitting on a plateau, slightly above the surrounding terrain.


The on-site examination by the NTSB IIC, accompanied by an FAA air safety inspector, commenced on June 24, about 1330. The airplane wreckage came to rest about 300 feet short, and 100 feet north, of the runway 03 threshold and centerline. The fuselage was upright, and oriented roughly parallel to the runway centerline. The engine had rotated down and aft 180 degrees, and was intruding into the forward portion of the passenger cabin from underneath. The wings, and empennage were distorted, but intact. All of the major airframe components were present at the impact site, and control continuity was confirmed during a later examination. Approximately 120 feet north of the wreckage site were two impact marks. The smaller of the two marks contained fragments of the red lens from the accident airplane's left wingtip navigation light. The larger of the two impact marks contained part of the airplane's left main landing gear. There were small pieces of wreckage between the two impact marks and the main wreckage, but no ground scars. An examination of the main wreckage showed that the propeller, mixture, and throttle controls were pushed forward. The fuel boost pump switch was in the on position, as were the landing light, strobe, and navigation lights. The flap handle was in the up position, the flap indicator was in the 20 degree position, and the flaps were retracted. The landing gear was extended. The engine had rotated down and aft 180 degrees, and intruded into the cockpit from underneath. There was a large fuel spill at the accident site.

On June 29 the airplane was re-examined by the IIC accompanied by a representative from Cessna. Control continuity was confirmed. An examination of the engine revealed that the crankshaft would rotate, and there was compression in the cylinders. The spark plugs appeared medium grey and dry. The two bladed propeller had extensive torsional twisting, leading edge and tip gouging, and chord-wise scratching.

During the two examinations of the airplane, no mechanical anomalies were noted.


Autopsies were performed on both the flight instructor, and the private pilot under the authority of the State of Alaska, Office of the State Medical Examiner, 4500 S. Boniface Parkway, Anchorage.

The cause and manner of death for the instructor were determined to be multiple blunt force impact injuries due to an airplane crash. Tissue samples were sent to the FAA Aeronautical Center, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for toxicological analysis. No toxicological issues were noted.

The cause and manner of death for the private pilot were determined to be multiple blunt force impact injuries due to an airplane crash. The toxicological analysis revealed the student pilot had Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) in both his blood and urine, and Propoxyphene (Darvocet) in his urine.

A relative reported that the student pilot had chronic back pain, and took the Flexeril routinely, having no significant side effects. She said that he had taken Darvocet the previous day following that day's flight.


No pieces or parts of the airplane were taken or retained by the NTSB.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.