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N975SP accident description

Michigan map... Michigan list
Crash location 46.501389°N, 88.700000°W
Nearest city Sidnaw, MI
46.504665°N, 88.708472°W
0.5 miles away
Tail number N975SP
Accident date 06 Jun 2003
Aircraft type Cessna 172S
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On June 6, 2003, at 1441 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172S, N975SP, operated by Western Shore Aviation, Inc. as a rental airplane, was destroyed on impact with trees and terrain during initial climb from runway 28 at Pricket-Grooms Field Airport (6Y9), Sidnaw, Michigan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was not operating on a flight plan. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the passenger received serious injuries. The flight originated from Manitowoc County Airport (MTW), Manitowoc, Wisconsin, about 1220, and was en route to 6Y9.

A copy of Western Shore Aviation, Inc.'s Appointment Schedule for day of the accident shows the pilot's name with a line from 1100 - 1700 under the accident airplane column.

A Western Shore Aviation Inc., certified flight instructor (CFI) said that he dispatched the pilot just like any other pilot. The pilot signed their "book," which means that he was "signing off" on their standard operating procedures (SOPs) for airplane rental. The CFI asked the pilot where he was going, to which the pilot responded that he was going to northern Wisconsin. The pilot went out to preflight the airplane, and a "little while later" his passenger arrived.

According to a Michigan State Police report, the passenger reported that he and the pilot had been co-workers for a number of years. They decided to take a flight from MTW to 6Y9, in order to take a friend for a ride, and then return by 1700. The passenger reported that everything was fine and they had no problems on the way up. When they got to 6Y9, the pilot flew over high once to take a look at the airstrip. The pilot then decided to take another look lower and check it out. They flew low and the pilot told him everything looked fine and it should be easy to land there. So they came around a third time from the east. They came in, touched down about half down the runway, went back up in the air, and touched down a second time. He thought they were going a little fast, but he was not worried. He said that the pilot told him they had to go up and try it again, because they were getting too close to the end of the runway. The passenger stated the pilot pulled back on the controls and put the throttle down in an effort to get over the trees at the west end of the runway. He stated the pilot seemed a little nervous and all of a sudden he started to bank to the left. The passenger reported that as they banked to the left, the plane dipped, and he felt something hit either the wing or another part of the airplane. He said he felt it hit and suddenly it turned the plane and they hit nose first into the ground.

Three witnesses who were parked in a truck adjacent to the south side of runway 28 reported the following:

One of the witnesses stated that the airplane touched down in front of them and again about 50 feet further down the runway. The airplane then accelerated, rose (it seemed sharply), then banked left and came down at which point he lost sight of it behind the trees. The attitude of the airplane seemed fairly flat with a slight upward pitch. He could not tell what position the flaps were in.

The second witness stated that the truck was parked about a quarter of the way down from the east end of the runway. The first time that they saw the airplane was when it was in the process of circling the runway in a counter clockwise direction. They lost sight of it when it was heading south and assumed that it was going to circle and land. The trees obscured their view of the eastern quarter of the strip. When the airplane appeared in front of them, it was moving at a good rate of speed and in a level position, its wheels on the ground. It immediately made a very slight hop and touched down again. Seconds later it was climbing into the sky. A few seconds later he lost sight of it in a tree branch. A few seconds later he saw through the branches the airplane go down against the backdrop of a tree line. He heard nothing except for the normal engine sound as it came by during landing.

The third witness stated that he did not witness the airplane touch down due to the location of the observation area at the airfield. He witnessed the airplane traveling down the runway and it seemed to have too much speed for the distance. He saw the airplane bounce twice, its wheel leaving the ground. The airplane then left the ground and began to pull up. It appeared that the airplane did not have enough speed as it banked to its left at tree top level. He then lost sight of the airplane, and he looked in the area he thought it would be in. It was apparent that the airplane did not make the trees.


The pilot, age 46, held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. He accumulated a total flight time of 141.2 hours, of which 49.6 hours were in the make and model of the accident airplane. He accumulated a total flight time of 5.5 hours in the past 90 days and 2.3 hours in the past 30 days from the accident date.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration's Blue Ribbon airman medical record, the pilot received his last airman medical certificate on July 2, 1999. The airman medical certificate was a third class with no limitations. The latest medical certificate, found on-scene and with the pilot's logbook, was dated July 2, 1999.

According to the pilot's logbook, the pilot received his last biennial flight review (BFR) from a Western Shore Aviation CFI on April 5, 2003. The BFR was logged as a local flight from MTW and was 1.6 hours in duration. The CFI who had given him the BFR said that he spent the majority of time on takeoff and landings, air work, and navigation with a hypothetical flight to La Crosse, Wisconsin. He spent a lot of time discussing the flight to Lacrosse, Wisconsin, its class D airspace, and radio communications.

The CFI who gave the pilot a BFR said that he had been the pilot's CFI from 1993 to 1994 during which time he provided instruction towards the pilot's private pilot certificate at Champion Aviation, which is now Western Aviation. The pilot last received flight instruction on a grass airstrip when they flew to New Holstein during the pilot's student pilot training, as the CFI usually does with his students. He said that the pilot had "very little" experience on grass airstrips since receiving his private pilot certificate based upon what he could remember. He said that he did not see the pilot a lot, and he was an individual who did not fly a "great deal." He thought that the pilot was very responsible and sensible. He was not a risk taker and he did not have that kind of personality.


The 1999 Cessna 172S, serial number 172S8197, was operated as a rental/instructional airplane by Western Shore Aviation. The single-engine, four-seat airplane was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-L2A, engine, serial number L-28243-51A, rated at 180 horsepower at 2,700 rpm. The airframe received its last 100-hour inspection dated May 23, 2003, at a tachometer time of 1,009.6 hours, a Hobbs time of 1,275.2 hours, or a total time of 1,009.6 hours. The engine received its last 100-hour inspection dated May 29, 2003, at a tachometer time of 1,015.0 hours, Hobbs time of 1,293.1 hours, and a total time of 1,015.0 hours.


The Houghton County Memorial Airport, Hancock, Michigan, automated surface observing system (ASOS), located about 40.1 nautical miles (NM) north-northeast of 6Y9, recorded at 1453: wind 110 degrees at 10 knots; visibility 10 statute miles (SM); sky condition scattered 10,000 feet above ground level (AGL); temperature 18 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 18 degrees C; altimeter setting 29.84 inches of mercury.

The Eagle River Union Airport, Eagle River, Wisconsin, ASOS, located about 42.3 NM south-southwest of 6Y9, recorded at 1439: wind 180 degrees at 6 knots; visibility 10 statute miles (SM); sky condition scattered 6,000 feet AGL, 9,500 feet AGL; temperature 18 degrees C; dew point 11 degrees C; altimeter setting 29.87 inches of mercury.

Ford Airport Iron Mountain/Kingsford, Michigan, ASOS, located about 48.4 NM southeast of 6Y9, recorded at 1454: wind 180 degrees, variable 130-200 degrees at 8 knots, gust 14 knots; visibility 10 SM; thunderstorm; sky condition broken 5,000 feet AGL; temperature 22 degrees C; dew point 11 degrees C; altimeter setting 29.86 inches of mercury.


6Y9 was an uncontrolled airport with an elevation of 1,373 feet mean sea level and served by runway 10-28, which was a 2,000 foot by 100 foot long turf runway. The airport had one windsock located about 1,100 feet down and to the south of runway 28. The 2003 Michigan Airport Directory states that the runway surface field condition is rough, very rough for the first 200 feet at each runway end, and soft when wet.


The airplane was located in a wooded area consisting of about 50 foot high trees about 50 feet from a residence. The airplane was about 736 feet west of the departure end of runway 28. The airplane was oriented in about a 90-degree nose down attitude with the tail section bent over an additional 30 degrees past the airplane’s vertical axis. The nose cowling and firewall was crushed rearward and onto the accessory section of engine.

The engine was partially attached to the airframe, and the propeller was attached to the engine. Both propeller blades exhibited twisting about the lateral/spanwise axis and chordwise bending. Thumb compression and suction was confirmed through the top spark plug holes when the engine was rotated by hand. Valve train continuity was confirmed and electrical continuity from both magnetos was confirmed.

The airplane wings and control surfaces were attached to their respective supporting structure. Each wing fuel tank was about 1/2 full. The flaps were in the retracted position. Flight control continuity from all control surfaces to their respective cockpit controls was confirmed.

The instrument panel was crushed rearward and upwards through the windshield exposing the underlying avionics and instruments. The instrument panel base for the ignition key switch was deformed and the key switch was positioned between "BOTH" and "START." The underlying panel for the "MASTER" and "ALT BAT" switch was deformed and separated from the switch. The switch was in the "ON" position. The throttle and mixture control knobs were positioned near their forward stops. The cockpit flap control was in the 0-degree position. The heading bug on the directional gyro was on 290 degrees. The tachometer and Hobbs meters indicated times of 1,028.0 hours and 1,309.8 hours, respectively. The altimeter was separated from the instrument panel and indicated 4,580 feet MSL and a altimeter setting of 29.88 inches of mercury.


An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Baraga County Medical Examiner on June 7, 2003.

The Federal Aviation Administration's Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report reported the following: no carbon monoxide detected in blood, no cyanide detected in blood, no ethanol detected in vitreous, and no drugs listed were detected in urine.


Federal Aviation Administration publication FAA-P-8740-7, The Safe Pilot's 12 Golden Rules, states under section 8. TAKEOFF/LANDING AREA (b) Be sure the runway length is equal to aircraft manufacturer's published takeoff or landing distance plus . . . 80% safety margin if hard surface, double the manual distance if sod, and triple the manual distance if wet grass (about same traction as ice). Part 9. TAKEOFF/LANDING LIMITS states: (a) Always plan touchdown 200 feet inside of runway threshold. (b) Abort takeoff if not solidly "airborne" in first 1/2 of runway. (c) Abort landing if not solidly "on" in first 1/3 of runway. (First 1/4 if wet grass.)

The Cessna 172S Skyhawk Information Manual, Wing Flap Settings, states:

"Normal takeoffs are accomplished with wing flaps 0 [degrees] - 10 [degrees]. Using 10 [degree] wing flaps reduces the ground roll and total distance over an obstacle by approximately 10 percent. Flaps deflections greater than 10 [degrees] are not approved for takeoff. If 10 [degree] wing flaps are used for takeoff, they should be left down until all obstacles are cleared and a safe flap retraction speed of 60 KIAS is reached. On a short field, 10 [degrees] wing flaps and an obstacle clearance speed of 56 KIAS should be used."

"Soft or rough field takeoffs are performed with 10 [degrees] flaps by lifting the airplane off the ground as soon as practical in a slightly tail low attitude. If no obstacles are ahead, the airplane should be leveled off immediately to accelerate to a higher climb speed. When departing a soft field with an aft C.G. loading, the elevator trim should be adjusted towards the nose down direction to give comfortable control wheel forces during the initial climb."

The Short Field Landing Distance At 2550 Pounds lists the following values at a sea level pressure altitude 10 degrees C with the following conditions: flaps 30 degrees; power off; maximum braking; paved, level, dry runway; zero wind; speed at 50 foot obstacle: 61 KIAS.

Ground Roll: 565 feet

Total to Clear 50 foot Obstacle: 1,320 feet

The notes that accompany the performance chart are:

1. Short field technique as specified in Section 4

2. Decrease distances 10% for each 9 knots headwind. For operation with tail winds up to 10 knots, increase distances by 10% for each 2 knots.

3. For operation on dry, grass runway, increase distances by 45% of the "ground roll" figure.

4. If landing with flaps up, increase the approach speed by 9 KIAS and allow for 35% longer distances.

The Short Field Takeoff Distance At 2450 Pounds lists the following values at a sea level pressure altitude 10 degrees C with the following conditions: flaps 10 degrees; full throttle prior to brake release; paved, level, dry runway; zero wind; lift off: 48 KIAS; speed at 50 foot obstacle: 54 KIAS.

Ground Roll: 800 feet

Total to Clear 50 foot Obstacle: 1,320 feet

The notes that accompany the performance chart are:

1. Short field technique as specified in Section 4

2. Prior to takeoff from fields above 3,000 feet elevation, the mixture should be leaned to give maximum RPM in a full throttle, static runup.

3. Decrease distances 10% for each 9 knots headwind. For operation with tail winds up to 10 knots, increase distances by 10% for each 2 knots.

4. For operation on dry, grass runway, increase distances by 15% of the "ground roll" figure.

The Balked Landing Procedure is:

1. Throttle-- FULL OPEN.

2. Wing Flaps -- RETRACT TO 20 [degrees].

3. Climb Speed -- 60 KIAS.

4. Wing Flaps -- 10 [degrees] (until obstacles are cleared). RETRACT (after reaching a safe altitude and 65 KIAS).


The FAA, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Textron Lycoming were parties to the investigation.

NTSB Probable Cause

The improper short/soft field landing procedure by the pilot and his lack of recent experience in type of operation. Contributing factors were the short/soft field runway, the trees and his delay in aborting the takeoff.

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