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N7523H accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Kenai, AK
60.554444°N, 151.258333°W

Tail number N7523H
Accident date 10 Feb 1994
Aircraft type Piper PA-12
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On February 10, 1994, at approximately 1210 Alaska standard time, a ski equipped Piper PA-12 airplane, N7523H, owned and operated by the pilot-in-command, crashed on the open tundra approximately 24 nautical miles west of Kenai, Alaska, near the Big River Lake. The student pilot, the sole occupant on board, sustained fatal injuries and the airplane was destroyed by the impact with the terrain and a post-crash fire. The personal flight, conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, last departed Sport Lake located near Soldotna, Alaska at about 1115 for the purpose of game spotting. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and there was no flight plan in effect.

On the afternoon of February 10, 1994, the NTSB investigator-in-charge conducted a telephone interview with Mr. Thomas C. Shanahan of 44185 Lewis Avenue, Soldotna, Alaska 99669. Mr. Shanahan reported he sold N7523H to Mr. Barnica in the fall of 1993 and that they were close friends. They each fueled their respective aircraft and departed Soldotna at about 1115 for the purpose of flying across the inlet to goof off and hunt for ptarmagan. Mr. Shanahan did not know if Mr. Barnica fueled the auxiliary tanks of N7523H. It was a good day to fly. The skies were clear and the winds calm. They two of them had been flying over the area in which the accident occurred for about 10-15 minutes when Mr. Barnica called to him on the radio using words to the effect, "see where I am back here?" Mr. Shanahan responded no and turned his airplane around and observed Mr. Barnica circling about 150 feet above the ground. He observed Mr. Barnica make one or two close in circles as if he were orbiting over an object on the ground followed by what he believed was the right wing pitch up, the left wing pitch down, and the airplane roll over and descend in a near vertical attitude toward the ground. When he arrived overhead, N7523H was on fire and had stuck the ground heading straight down. The tail of the airplane was standing straight up. By the time he landed his airplane and arrived at the scene, the airplane was engulfed in flames.


Douglas E. Barnica, date of birth July 27, 1957, was issued a combined third class medical certificate and student pilot certificate No. 451439 on March 3, 1992. There were no limitation requirements on his medical certificate. On the application for the medical certificate Mr. Barnica indicated that he had no pilot time. Attempts to obtain the pilot's flight time history, and the maintenance logs on the airplane were not successful. Mr. Shanahan believed that the aircraft logs most likely were on board the airplane at the time of the accident and were subsequently destroyed in the fire. Mr. Shanahan believed the engine on the airplane was a Lycoming 160 horsepower O-320 and that Mr. Barnica had accrued a total of approximately 400 hours of flight time, all in N7523H.


The cause of death for the pilot was determined by the Office of The State Medical Examiner to be directly related to injuries sustained in the accident. The toxicological screen was negative.


Airplane N7523H, serial number 12-387, was manufactured in 1946. The plane was issued a standard airworthiness certificate in September 1955. Mr. Barnica and his wife, Terrie M., purchased the airplane from Mr. Thomas C. Shanahan on September 9, 1993. The airplane was registered in the Barnica's name on September 20, 1993. Mr. Shanahan believed the airplane was powered by a Lycoming O-320 160 horsepower engine. FAA records do not show the airplane having a FORM 337 (major alteration and repair form) for this type of engine installation. The airplane was also equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks in the outboard portions of the left and right wings. No FORM 337 was on file for this alteration. The airplane was also equipped with Aero Ski Model 3000H skis. The skis were not approved for installation on PA12 aircraft.


The on scene investigation by the NTSB investigator-in- charge took place on February 11, 1994. Mr. Walter Zachowitz of the FAA's FSDO-03 office in Anchorage, Alaska assisted in this effort. The plane crashed in an open area near a frozen over creek. The impact angle and heading were measured at 65 degrees nose down and 285 degrees, respectively. The right wing made initial contact with the ground followed by the nose and left wing. There was gross burning of the plane's structure. All components of the airplane were accounted for at the site. Both wings remained attached to the fuselage. There was no evidence of an inflight failure. Flight control continuity was established with all control surfaces. All failures noted were induced from mechanical cutting or tension overload. The flaps were drooped about 10 degrees but moved freely by hand. The position of the flap handle was full down. The fuselage was bent approximately 70 degrees downward beginning just aft of the passenger compartment. All engine and flight gauges were burned beyond recognition. The pilot's seat was crushed and bent to the right. The seat belt was burned away and the locking attachment points were not recovered from the ashes. The fuel valve handles were burned away. An internal examination of the valves revealed that the engine was being fed by the left and right main fuel tanks. The lower half of the engine was buried in the snow, ice, and tundra and could not be examined. The engine was broken from its mount attachment points and had moved left and rearward into the pilot compartment. An examination of the engine data plate was not possible. No gross leakage of oil from the engine was apparent. An external inspection of the upper engine assembly, ie. crank case, cylinders, and spark plugs revealed no abnormalities. The No. 3 cylinder valve rocker cover was pulled and the valve train components were found to be bathed in oil. The two propeller blades were bent rearward about 25 degrees. One of the blades exhibited twisting and slight queing at the tip. The leading edge of this blade was also curled back about one inch near its mid span. No queing or twisting was evident on the remaining blade.

Upon the completion of the on scene investigation, the spokesperson for the family at that time, Mr. Thomas Shanahan, was requested to notify the Safety Board when the wreckage had been transported to a location that would allow a more indepth examination. The Safety Board was subsequently advised that the plane's engine and airframe components had been stolen from the accident site and that there were no immediate plans to recover the wreckage. Consequently, no further examination of the plane was performed.

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