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N6323G accident description

Arkansas map... Arkansas list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Cord, AR
35.812020°N, 91.343464°W
Tail number N6323G
Accident date 15 Aug 1998
Aircraft type Cessna 172N
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On August 15, 1998, at 0938 central daylight time, a Cessna 172N airplane, N6323G, collided with a power line while maneuvering over the Black River near Cord, Arkansas. The airplane subsequently impacted in the river and sank. The private pilot was fatally injured, and his passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane, which was registered to and operated by Searcy Air Taxi, Inc., of Searcy, Arkansas, sustained substantial damage. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal cross country flight, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane departed Newport, Arkansas, approximately 0930 and was en route to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.

According to the operator, the airplane departed from the Searcy Municipal Airport in Searcy about 0830 for a cross country flight with planned stops at Jonesboro and Batesville, Arkansas, before returning to Searcy. A witness, who is employed as a line service technician at the Newport Municipal Airport, reported that the airplane landed at Newport about 0900. He further reported that the two occupants of the airplane came into the office and spoke with him. During the conversation, they indicated they intended to fly from Newport to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, which is located approximately 32 nautical miles northeast of Newport. The witness reported that the airplane departed Newport about 0930.

Witnesses located near the bridge where Arkansas State Highway 37 crosses the Black River reported that about 1000, they observed the airplane flying at a "low altitude" up the river (to the northeast). (The Black River runs roughly parallel to, and 6 to 8 nautical miles west of, a direct line from Newport to Walnut Ridge.) One of the witnesses stated that the airplane was at "treetop height." Another witness, who reported he was a pilot, stated that the engine was operating at a "pretty good rpm," and the airplane was flying "low and slow."

The passenger reported that after departing from Newport, "they flew around until they saw the river, then they followed the river." He estimated the airplane's altitude as "a little above" the height of the trees growing along the river bank. As they flew around a sharp bend in the river, he saw the power line. The airplane hit the wires, went into the river and sank. After the cabin filled with water, he was able to open the right door and escape.

The power line which the airplane collided with supplies power to a petroleum pipeline pumping station. According to a representative of Mobil Oil Company, the power to the pipeline pumping station was interrupted at 0938.

The accident was reported to local authorities at 1153. Efforts to recover the airplane from the river began on the afternoon of the 15th and were successfully completed on the 16th.


According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating issued on June 2, 1998. He held a third class medical certificate issued on October 20, 1997, with the restriction, "Must wear corrective lenses."

On the application form submitted for his private pilot certificate, the pilot reported a total flight time of 62.8 hours of which 48.2 hours were in a Cessna 172. The flight instructor who gave the pilot the majority of the instruction necessary to obtain his private pilot certificate reported that the pilot had accumulated a total flight time of about 85 hours. He further reported that the pilot had about 50 to 60 hours of flight time in the Cessna 172, and had flown the airplane 15 to 20 hours since obtaining his private certificate.


At the time of the accident, the 1979 Cessna 172N airplane had accumulated 6,294 hours of flight time. It was painted white with brown trim markings. A review of the airframe and engine logbooks revealed no record of any uncorrected maintenance discrepancies.


The accident site was located on the Black River approximately 5 nautical miles northeast of the Highway 37 bridge, at 29 degrees 50.077 minutes north latitude and 91 degrees 14.905 minutes west longitude. The airplane came to rest in the river immediately upstream of the power line which crosses the river at an estimated altitude of 50 to 75 feet agl. All three wires of the power line were observed to be frayed near the midpoint of their river crossing. According to the owner of the power line, Entergy, each wire was 0.721 inches in diameter and consisted of 26 strands of aluminum around a core of 7 strands of steel.

The airplane was recovered from the river intact with the exception of the left wing leading edge skin outboard of the lift strut, the majority of the engine cowling, a portion of the right main wheel fairing, the windshield and the rear window. Examination of the left wing revealed that the missing section of the leading edge had been torn from the wing in an outboard and upward direction. Linear scratches and dull gray metal transfers were found on the remaining leading edge skin inboard of the wing strut for a distance of approximately 3 feet and on approximately the upper 2 feet of the leading edge of the left wing lift strut. The metal transfers and scratches measured from about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length and 1/8 inch in width and were oriented parallel to one another with a spacing of approximately 1/8 inch between marks.

The inboard sections of both the left and right wings were bowed upward. The leading edge of the right wing was crushed aft to the wing spar outboard of the lift strut. Both ailerons remained attached to their respective wings and displayed no evidence of impact damage. Aileron control continuity was verified from the control surfaces to the wing roots. Both flaps remained attached to their respective wings and were bowed upward. The left flap was deflected down approximately 10 degrees, and the right flap was fully retracted. Examination of the flap jack screw indicated the flaps were fully retracted (0 degrees) at the time of the accident.

The vertical stabilizer and the rudder were bent over towards the left side of the airplane. The horizontal stabilizer and both elevators displayed no evidence of impact damage. Control continuity was confirmed from the rudder, the elevators, and the elevator trim tab to the rear of the baggage compartment. Further control continuity could not be determined due to impact damage to the forward fuselage structure. Examination of the elevator trim actuator indicated the trim was at a neutral setting.

The belly of the fuselage between the firewall and the main landing gear was crushed upwards. When the airplane was pulled from the water, the right door and the baggage compartment door were open, and the left door was closed and locked. The left front seat remained attached to the seat tracks, and the right front seat separated from the seat tracks. Local authorities unbuckled the left front seat belt and shoulder harness assembly. The right front seat belt and shoulder harness assembly was found unbuckled.

The engine remained attached to the airframe, and the propeller remained attached to the engine. The carburetor air box was separated from the carburetor and remained attached by the carburetor heat cable. Both the throttle and mixture control cables remained secured to the carburetor. Engine continuity to all cylinders and the accessory drive gears was confirmed by hand rotating the propeller.


An autopsy of the pilot was performed at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock, Arkansas. Toxicological tests performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) found 32 ug/g salicylate (aspirin) in urine.


The airplane was released to the owner's representative on August 21, 1998.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's performance of low altitude flight and his failure to maintain obstacle clearance.

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