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N6085A accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Gill, CO
40.454147°N, 104.542180°W

Tail number N6085A
Accident date 13 Mar 1999
Aircraft type Cessna 172
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On March 13, 1999, at 1848 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172, N6085A, owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed when it collided with terrain about 11 miles east of Gill, Colorado, near the community of Barnesville. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Greeley, Colorado, approximately 1730.

George D. Aunger, the passenger aboard N6085A, had expressed an interest in learning to fly to his friend, James D. Papka, the pilot. Mr. Papka offered to take him flying in his airplane, and Mr. Aunger accepted. According to Parts America, Mr. Aunger finished work on the afternoon of the accident and clocked out at 1630.

No one saw N6085A take off. Several people reported seeing the pilot earlier in the afternoon. The accident occurred shortly after dusk at the location 40 degrees, 26.41 minutes north latitude; 104 degrees, 21.80 minutes west longitude.


The pilot, James D. Papka, age 56, was born on December 13, 1942. He held Private Pilot Certificate No. 502424007, dated January 22, 1997, with an airplane single-engine land rating. He also held a second class airman medical certificate, dated December 2, 1997, with a restriction for near vision.

Mr. Papka's flight logbook contained entries from September 27, 1995, to March 6, 1999 (a summary of his flight time can be found on page 3 of this report). Of the 473.8 total flight hours recorded, 459.7 hours were in the Cessna 172, and 418.9 hours were accumulated in N6085A. His most recent biennial flight review was accomplished on January 29, 1999. In his logbook he wrote, "BFR - first loop - first barrel roll - BFR good." According to the flight instructor who administered the flight review, he "demonstrated" these maneuvers to the pilot and cautioned him not to attempt the maneuvers by himself. According to the manufacturer and FAA certification documents, spins, loops, and rolls are prohibited in the Cessna 172.


N6085A (s.n. 28685) was manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company in 1956. It was equipped with a Teledyne Continental O-300-A engine (s.n. 15737-D-4-A-R), rated at 145 horsepower, and a McCauley 2-blade, all metal, fixed pitch propeller (m.n. 1A170/DM7651, s.n. 56211).

The last annual/100-hour maintenance inspections were performed April 1, 1998, at a tachometer/total airframe and engine time of 4,367.0 hours. At that time, the engine had accrued 1,509.0 hours since major overhaul.


GXY 0055Z (1855 MST): Wind, 170 degrees at 4 knots; visibility, 10 s.m.; sky, clear at or below 12,000 feet; temperature, 9 degrees C. (48.2 degrees F.); dew point, -4 degrees C. (24.8 degrees F.); altimeter, 30.06 inches of mercury.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, official sunset occurred at 1803 and civil twilight ended at 1830.


There were no witnesses to the accident that occurred in a remote section of a ranch. The accident site elevation was 5,386 feet msl (using a Global Positioning System receiver). The pilot's watch had stopped at 6:48.

The wreckage path was approximately 150 feet east of a small hill. It was aligned on a magnetic heading 072 degrees and curved slightly to the right, ending on a magnetic heading of 075 degrees. At the beginning of the wreckage path were three ground furrows, similar in position to that of the airplane's nose and main landing gears. Just beyond these furrows was a wider ground interruption extending approximately 100 feet. At the beginning of this interruption was a perpendicular slash mark. Just beyond this slash mark were two perpendicular scars, dimensionally similar to the airplane's wings. The left scar measured 17 feet from the centerline, and the right scar measured 18 feet, 10 inches from the centerline. The ground scar continued in an easterly direction for approximately 270 feet, where it terminated at the main body of wreckage. The engine was separated from the airframe. The manually controlled flaps were retracted.

All major components of the airframe were accounted for, and flight control continuity was established. Examination of the propeller, which remained attached to the engine, disclosed 45 degree chordwise scratches on the cambered surfaces of the blades. The throttle control shaft was retarded 1-1/2 inches and was bent over 45 degrees. Carburetor heat was on. The crush angle taken from the propeller spinner was 32 degrees.


An autopsy (A9932) was performed on the pilot on March 17, 1999, by Dr. Richard E. Halbert at the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colorado. A toxicological screen was conducted by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute.


According to Karen Mancilla of Greeley, Colorado, she flew with Mr. Papka twice in the summer of 1998. Ms. Mancilla, who has no flight experience, was frightened when Mr. Papka took his hands off the controls and told her to fly the airplane. The airplane began descending and she yelled at him to take control. He did the same thing to her son, but her son enjoyed the opportunity to fly an airplane. Ms. Mancilla said Mr. Papka did "roller coaster" drops in which he lifted the nose of the aircraft and let it fall toward the ground. She said he also played games such as "chase the river," in which he flew low over a river and raced floating sticks.

The following are excerpts from a statement submitted by Ben Webster, a pilot who had an unpleasant experience with Mr. Papka. Mr. Webster had been towing a banner over Greeley, Colorado, during the Fourth of July festivities in 1997. Returning to the Greeley Airport for landing, Mr. Webster noticed a blue Cessna 172 "circling in a nonstandard fashion in the vicinity of the middle marker for the ILS runway 9" and at the same altitude (about 600 feet) as he. Mr. Webster said he made two attempts to contact the airplane on the CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency) but without success. After landing, Mr. Webster entered the airport and was confronted by Mr. Papka. Mr. Papka accused him of not using the radio. Mr. Webster said he remained quiet and listened as Mr. Papka lectured him on "the issues of safety and ediquit (sic) associated with not using the radio." Each time Mr. Webster tried to say something, "it served to make [Mr. Papka] more irate and he ultimately threw a cup of hot coffee in my face." The Weld County Sheriff's Department was notified and Mr. Webster filed assault charges against Mr. Papka. In June 1998, Mr. Papka was convicted of "harassment."

In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation included the Cessna Aircraft Company and Teledyne Continental Motors.

The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on March 15, 1999.

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