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N5338D accident description

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Crash location 35.450000°N, 82.300000°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 Gerton, NC
35.479285°N, 82.348172°W
3.4 miles away

Tail number N5338D
Accident date 31 Oct 1994
Aircraft type Cessna 172N
Additional details: White/Brown and is BURNED

NTSB description


On October 31, 1994, at 1856 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172N, N5338D, collided with a mountain ridge near Gerton, North Carolina. The business flight operated under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91, with no flight plan filed. Instrument flight weather conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-impact fire. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The flight departed Beaufort, North Carolina, at 1430 hours, and made a refueling stop in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.

At 1131, a man who identified himself as the pilot of N5338D, telephoned Raleigh Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), and requested weather data for a planned flight to Springfield, Tennessee. The Air Traffic Control Specialist (ATCS), gave the pilot a summary of pertinent adverse weather conditions. The briefing information indicated that instrument flight weather conditions prevailed along the planned route, and that the North Carolina mountains were also obscured. The ATCS told the pilot that the visual flight rules (VFR) flight was not recommended. The pilot was advised to call back later for a standard weather briefing.

At 1201, the pilot called Raleigh AFSS and requested a weather briefing from Morehead, North Carolina, to Springfield, Tennessee. Again, the pilot was given current and forecasted weather conditions. The weather information disclosed that instrument flight conditions continued to prevail, and that mountain terrain features were obscured by clouds.

At 1405, the pilot telephoned Raleigh AFSS, and filed a VFR flight plan from Beaufort, North Carolina, to Murphy, North Carolina. After the pilot filed the flight plan, the ATCS asked the pilot if he was aware of the instrument weather conditions in western North Carolina; the pilot replied no. The pilot was given the current weather conditions for his destination, and advised that because of his proposed en route altitude, he would be above the lower cloud layer without visual ground contact; the pilot acknowledged the comments (see attached chronological summary of flight for en route air traffic handling).

At 1756, the pilot telephoned Raleigh AFSS, and closed his flight plan. The pilot stated that he had landed at Rutherfordton, North Carolina for fuel. After landing, the pilot discovered that there was no fuel available without prior notice. During his search for fuel, the pilot of N5338D found another pilot based at Rutherfordton, and they attempted to secure the key for the fuel pump. According to the other pilot, they were unable to locate the key for the fuel pump, but he offered the pilot of N5338D 16.6 gallons of fuel that he had stored. The pilot and passengers refueled the airplane, thanked their host for assisting them, and departed Rutherfordton, at 1835 hours.

At 1845, the pilot of N5338D radioed Asheville Approach Control, and reported 20 miles east for landing. The pilot was instructed to squawk transponder code 0212. The pilot requested vector information to the airport from his position. He was advised to maintain the 270 westerly heading and enter a downwind for runway 16. At 1854:30, the pilot requested to descend from 4300 feet; the air traffic controller advised the pilot to maintain visual contact during the descent. N5338D was last observed on radar twelve miles east of Asheville; the aircraft wreckage was located at the 3800 foot level of a mountain ridge, ten miles east of Asheville Regional Airport.


Information on the pilot is included in this report at the data field labeled "First Pilot Information". The pilot's flight logs were not recovered for examination. However, according to the private pilot's application submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilot was certificated as a private pilot on October 17, 1994. The application also showed that the pilot had flown a total of 90 flight hours.

According to the aircraft operator, the pilot completed his flight training through their operation. The pilot received the normal aircraft check-out for renters. The operator also stated that company policy prohibited pilots with less than an instrument airmen certification to fly night cross country flights in their rental aircraft.


Information on the aircraft is contained in this report at the data field labeled "Aircraft Information". Information recovered during the field phase of the investigation disclosed that the computed gross weight at the initial departure from Beaufort, North Carolina, was over the certificated gross weight of 2300 pounds (see the attached Cessna On-Site Investigation Report for weight and balance computations).


Instrument weather conditions prevailed at the location of the accident. Weather information is contained in this report at the data field labeled "Weather Information". A Review of Federal Aviation Administration records disclosed that, prior to departing Beaufort, North Carolina, the pilot received several weather briefings (see attached transcriptions of communication). At the approximate time of the accident the recorded weather sequence report at Asheville, North Carolina, showed a 400 foot (above ground level) overcast condition. The field elevation at Asheville is 2,165 feet; N5338D crashed at the 3800 foot level of the mountain range, ten miles east of Asheville Regional Airport.


The examination of the accident site disclosed that wreckage debris was scattered over an area 135 feet long and 45 feet wide. Debris from the right wing assembly was lodged in a tree 125 feet down slope from the main wreckage. The center and cockpit sections of the airframe were destroyed by impact forces and, a post-impact fire. All major airframe components were recovered and examined (see attached wreckage distribution diagram). Examination of the recovered airframe components failed to disclose a mechanical failure or a system malfunction.

The engine and propeller assemblies were located with the main wreckage. Examination of the accident site disclosed that the propeller assembly separated from the engine assembly, and came to rest several feet west of the main wreckage. An examination of the propeller assembly revealed that there was twisting and bending to both propeller blades along the leading edges. Several pieces of freshly cut tree material was scattered along the wreckage path. The engine also sustained impact and fire damage. Examination of the engine and propeller assemblies failed to disclose a mechanical malfunction or component.


The postmortem examination on the pilot was performed by Dr. Robert Thompson, at the North Carolina Office Of The Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill, on November 11, 1994. The cause of death was reported as multiple trauma secondary to the aircraft accident. The toxicological examinations were negative for alcohol and drugs.


The aircraft wreckage was released to:

Kevin Twiss (Insurance Adjustor) 1255 Roberts Blvd,. #200 Kennesaw, Georgia 30144

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