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N3166D accident description

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Crash location 33.458333°N, 85.808333°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 Oxford, AL
33.614271°N, 85.834965°W
10.9 miles away

Tail number N3166D
Accident date 10 Apr 2003
Aircraft type Cessna 180
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 10, 2003, approximately 1700 central daylight time (CST), a Cessna 180, N3166D, registered to Blue Water Aircraft Corporation, and operated by a private pilot, collided with trees in the Cheaha State Park, Oxford, Alabama. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and visual flight rules. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and the pilot and student pilot rated passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed Thomasville, Georgia on April 10, 2003 approximately 1530 eastern daylight time (EST).

At 1434 EST, the pilot telephone the Macon Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) to get a weather briefing on the weather conditions from Thomasville, Georgia, to Detroit, Michigan. The pilot informed Macon flight service that he was aware of the "swirling mess" and wondered how far west he would have to fly in order to avoid it. He was advised that he would have to fly to western Tennessee to avoid the instrument precaution advisories. Due to the current weather conditions, the pilot reported that he would fly to Gadsden, Alabama and spend the night, and continue to Detroit the following day.

At 1438 EST, the Macon AFSS advised the pilot that the lowest cloud conditions between Thomasville, Georgia, and Gadsden, Alabama, were twelve hundred feet, and that the observation was twenty-three minutes old. The current observation showed that the weather conditions were beginning to deteriorate and that the ceiling dropped two hundred feet. The pilot was advised to keep in contact with Macon AFSS as he headed north. No record of radio communications was received from the pilot, nor did the airplane arrive at the destination airport.

On April 11, 2003, at 1045 CST, a hiker in the Cheaha State Park discovered the wreckage of the downed airplane along a hiking trail at approximately the 1800-foot level of Hernandez Peak. Local authorities found the private pilot was seated in the right front seat, and the student pilot seated in the left front seat.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land. Review of the Federal Aviation Administration records showed the pilot had a total of 2000 hours. The pilot's logbooks were not recovered for examination. The pilot held a second-class medical certificate, dated May 14, 2001, valid when wearing corrective lenses.

The student pilot rated passenger held an special restriction medical certificate, dated July 1, 2002, valid when wearing corrective lenses, and not valid for night flying or by color signal control.


The Cessna 180 is a high wing, tail wheel airplane, and the last recorded annual inspection was conducted on February 1, 2003; the total tachometer time was 543 hours. The last inspection on altimeter system, static pressure system, and transponder was performed on November 1, 2000. No records were recovered concerning the last engine overhaul.


The nearest weather reporting facility Rome, Georgia (RMG), weather observation at 1553 eastern daylight time reported, winds three five zero degrees at seven knots, visibility six statute miles, light rain, scattered clouds at one thousand seven hundred feet, ceiling overcast at two thousand three hundred feet, temperature nine, dew point seven degrees Celsius, altimeter two nine seven point seven.

A witness reported, on April 10, 2003 between 1630 and 1700 central standard time, a high wing; tail wheel type airplane flew over their home. The witness recalled the weather consisted of low clouds, rain and fog.


Examination of the wreckage site revealed the airplane was in a heavily wooded area on a 344-degree heading, approximately 8 miles from the Anniston Airport. The wreckage path was 100 yards in length and approximately 75 feet wide. Freshly cut and broken trees were found throughout the wreckage path. At the beginning of the wreckage path the outboard section of the right wing was approximately 50 feet above the ground in a tree. The right inboard wing section was 190 feet from the beginning of the wreckage path. The horizontal and vertical stabilizer came to rest on at the base of a tree 265 feet from first broken tree. The engine, left wing, and fuselage came to rest at the base of a tree 285 feet from the initial impact point.

Examination of the airframe revealed the right and left wing assemblies were separated at the wing root. The right wing was broken in two places mid-span of the wing assembly. The right wing fuel tank was breached, and fuel was observed leaking from the left wing fuel tank. The empennage was separated from the tail cone and was buckled. The tail-cone was separated from the fuselage, and was buckled. The cockpit and the nose section were in an inverted position and broken in two. Flight control cables were traced from the flight controls in the cockpit to all aerodynamic control surfaces. All flight control cables were broken.

Examination of the engine revealed it remained attached to the forward section of the fuselage. The left magneto-mounting flange was damaged, and separated from the engine case, with the ignition harness attached. The left magneto was rotated and produced blue ignition sparks at the distributor cap. The right magneto was attached to the engine case and damaged at the mounting-flange. The ignition harness was connected to the magneto. Examination of the impulse-couplings flyweight exhibited wear. Fuel was noted in the fuel line from the strainer to the carburetor. Examination of the spark plugs revealed that the plug electrodes were tan in color. There was a quantity of engine oil in the crankcase. The airframe examination did not reveal evidence of flight control or mechanical malfunctions.

The engine accessories were attached to the accessory housing and rotated when the crankshaft was rotated. Examination of propeller revealed one blade exhibiting "S" bending with chordwise scratches. Both propeller blades were broken loose inside of the hub. The engine examination did not reveal evidence of a mechanical malfunction.


The Alabama Division of Forensic Sciences performed the pathological diagnoses of the pilot on April 14, 2003. The reported cause of death was "blunt force injuries". The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. The results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol.


There were several pilot reports recorded within a 60-mile radius surrounding the time of the accident. All of the reports were identified with pilot's operating under instrument flight rules. The pilot reports were consistent with the base of the overcast layer at 1,500 feel mean sea level with varying tops from 5'500 feet west over Birmingham to 11,500 feet west of Atlanta.

The wreckage of N3166D was released to Leading Edge Aviation on January 14, 2004.

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