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N204D accident description

Nevada map... Nevada list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Yerington, NV
38.985751°N, 119.162931°W
Tail number N204D
Accident date 12 Nov 1998
Aircraft type Cessna A185F
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On November 12, 1998, at 1043 hours Pacific standard time, a Cessna 150L, N19281, and a Cessna A185F, N204D, collided while both aircraft were in the traffic pattern at the Yerington, Nevada, airport. Both aircraft were destroyed. The two occupants in N19281 and the single occupant in N204D all received fatal injuries. The aircraft were being operated by their pilot/owners under 14 CFR Part 91, with N19281 as an instructional flight and N204D as a personal flight at the time of the accident. Both flights originated from Yerington Municipal airport. N19281 departed about 1000 and had remained in the traffic pattern. N204D departed about 1042 with a final destination of Carson City, Nevada. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plans were filed.

A witness in a third aircraft that departed the Yerington airport immediately after N204D reported that he had both aircraft in sight as he was departing on runway 19. In his drawing of what he saw, he depicted N19281, the first to depart, as making a slight dog-leg to the right after takeoff from runway 19 in accordance with an airport noise abatement procedure. N19281 was in a crosswind turn as N204D, who was the next to depart from runway 19, proceeded straight out on the upwind leg. As he watched, N204D overtook N19281 approaching from its 7 o'clock position. N19281 was in a left turn to downwind as N204D also began a left crosswind turn. N204D, the faster of the two aircraft, turned inside N19281. N204D continued in a 180-degree crosswind turn until catching up and colliding with N19281 as they were each entering the downwind leg.

In an interview, a ground based witness used model aircraft to demonstrate how N204D overtook and turned inside N19281. N204D contacted the empennage and left main landing gear of N19283 with its propeller and left wing. The witness described N19283's tail being "cut off" with a resultant shower of "confetti" falling to the ground. After losing its tail, N19281 tucked its nose, becoming inverted and then entered a steep gliding spiral, finally impacting in a nose low, inverted attitude in the side yard at 421 South Main Street. After impact, N204D pitched up briefly then nosed over in a steep dive, finally impacting a single-family residence located at 310 Sandy Avenue, about 0.3 mile east-northeast of N19281. Upon impact, the aircraft burst into flames. There were no witness reports that N204D experienced any sort of in-flight separation, nor did a subsequent ground sweep of the area by investigators discover any wreckage that could be identified as having come from that aircraft.


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Records, the pilot of N19281 held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates. At the time of the accident, he was conducting an instructional flight with a student pilot who was a certificated commercial glider pilot. The pilot was also an FAA designated pilot examiner, authorized to conduct private pilot airplane single engine land (ASEL) flight checks. His last biennial flight review (BFR) equivalent was his checkride with an FAA operations inspector with the Reno, Nevada, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). This was conducted as part of his examiner authorization renewal on January 27, 1998. He held an airframe and powerplant certificate (A&P), a repairman certificate for radio and instrument, as well as inspection authorization. His second-class medical certificate was unrestricted. He had owned a fixed-base operation located on the Yerington airport for about 35 years.

In addition to his commercial pilot certificate for gliders, the student also held a flight instructor certificate with a glider rating. The date of issue for his commercial certificate was October 20, 1992. The date of issue for his flight instructor certificate was April 9, 1998. His third-class medical certificate, issued on November 26, 1997, required him to have glasses available for near vision. He had reported logging about 500 hours of flight time; however, it is unknown what portion of this time was in airplanes. He worked as a commercial fisherman near Halibut Cove, Alaska. He had lived part-time in Wellington, Nevada, the past 4 years.

The pilot of N204D was a former airline pilot with 32 years of service, who retired in 1987. He held a second-class medical certificate that required him to wear glasses for distant vision and to possess glasses for near vision. He also held an A&P certificate and had owned his aircraft for about 11 years. He was currently a reserve deputy with the Washoe County Sheriff's Carson City Aero Squadron unit. He had told his wife that he was going to fly to Yerington that morning for breakfast and then to practice some touch-and-go landings, something she said that he had done before. His pilot's logbook was not located.


The aircraft logbook for N19281 was reviewed by Safety Board investigators and an FAA airworthiness inspector. The owner/pilot had performed the last annual inspection. No discrepancies were noted. The aircraft was equipped with a very high frequency (VHF) radio.

The aircraft and engine logbooks for N204D were found, partially burned, in the wreckage. The tachometer was destroyed; therefore, aircraft total time and time since the last inspection could not be established. The FAA's aircraft records file showed that the aircraft had several modifications. They included the addition of auxiliary fuel tanks, a short-field takeoff and landing (STOL) kit, which featured a flap actuated droop/elevator trim interconnect, an anti-collision strobe light, as well as avionics and air filter changes. The aircraft was equipped with a very high frequency (VHF) radio.

The amount of fuel onboard either aircraft at the time of the collision, as well as the location, vendor, and amount of fuel dispensed during the last servicing could not be established.


Yerington Municipal Airport is an uncontrolled airport. A common air traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), 122.8 MHz, is provided to allow pilots in the airport traffic area to voluntarily inform each other of their position and intentions.

The CTAF at Yerington was operated by the FBO owner, the pilot/instructor in N19281. Interviews with personnel at the FBO failed to identify anyone who was monitoring the frequency at the time of the accident.

The pilot of a third aircraft, a Cessna 140, N167C, who took off immediately behind N204D, was interviewed. That pilot told Safety Board investigators that he was monitoring 122.8 MHz at the time but did not recall hearing any radio transmissions from either of the two accident aircraft.


The pilot of N167C told Safety Board investigators that an informal noise abatement procedure existed for runway 19 at Yerington. The procedure consisted of a dogleg turn to the right on the upwind leg immediately after takeoff. This was done to avoid flying over the city while still at a relatively low takeoff altitude. The procedure is not published and passed on only through word of mouth from other pilots familiar with the Yerington airport.

Traffic pattern altitude is 5,178 feet msl with left traffic for runway 19-01.


Safety Board investigators estimated the final position of N19281 as 38 degrees 58.88 minutes north longitude and 119 degrees 09.82 minutes west latitude. The final position of N204D was estimated as 38 degrees 58.89 minutes north longitude and 119 degrees 09.47 minutes west latitude. Based on witness observations, the estimated altitude of both aircraft at the time of the collision was about 5,000 feet msl.


The cabin of N19281 exhibited vertical crushing consistent with the reported inverted ground impact. The fixed landing gear exhibited damage on the left main wheel. The brake backing plate was crushed upward from the 6 o'clock position. The fuselage exhibited a longitudinal slash also near the 6 o'clock position from a point at fuselage station (FS) 70 aft to the cabin bulkhead that coincided with the aft fuselage point of separation. Less than 25 percent of the artifacts making up the aft fuselage and empennage were recovered, with the majority being associated with the right horizontal stabilizer.

The VHF communication radio was turned on and was tuned to 122.8 MHz.

The two-bladed, fixed pitch propeller was hand rotated and continuity was established through the engine's rotating components. Both blades were bent back around the engine cowling. Thumb compression and spark from all leads was also established. The top spark plugs were removed and showed normal coloration and wear patterns according to the Champion Spark Plugs Check-A-Plug chart.

The throttle control handle was fully extended to the "idle" position.

Control continuity was established to the ailerons; however, continuity could not be established to the rudder or elevator due to control cable separation. The aft control cables were not only separated but showed evidence that their grommets were torn in the direction of their 2 o'clock position.

According to the aircraft manufacturer, the flap jackscrew was found in the flaps up position. The elevator trim actuator was not recovered.

Witnesses initially on scene at the impact site reported fuel leaking from the tanks of the inverted wings. The fuel selector was found in the "on" position. As the aircraft was being loaded for transport to the retriever's storage facility, investigators observed fuel, consistent with the color (blue) and odor of 100 octane low lead (LL), draining from both tanks.


The wreckage of the Cessna 185 was located in a residential structure. The propeller and engine were recovered from a bathtub that was lodged in the crawl space beneath floor level.

Except for the following listed components, the entire airframe of N240D was involved in the postcrash explosion and fire: a 4-foot outboard section of the left wing; tailwheel; right main gear; battery; emergency locator transmitter (ELT); and right wing strut. The leading edge surface of the left main wing, near the separation point, exhibited black and red transfer marks.

The VHF communication radio was destroyed in the crash and subsequent postcrash fire.

Control continuity was established from each aileron flap bell crank to the cabin area. The flap actuator handle was destroyed.

All the blades from the non-standard three-bladed McCauley constant speed propeller exhibited aft bending, with chordwise and spanwise scratches and gouges, as well as S-bending and blade twisting. One blade was loose in the hub.

The top spark plugs were removed and compared to the Champion Spark Plugs Check-A-Plug chart; they all displayed coloration and wear patterns consistent with normal operation.

The magnetos, each with an impulse coupler, were hand rotated. The left magneto produced a spark on all leads; however, the right magneto would not produce a spark.

The fuel selector was found in the "both" position.


Autopsies were conducted on November 13, 1998, by the Washoe County Coroner's Office with specimens retained for toxicological examination. The toxicological results were negative for alcohol and all screened drug substances except for the flight instructor, who was positive for chlorpheniramine, brompheniramine, ephedrine, and dextromethorphan. According to published pharmacological data, the substances are antihistamines and ingredients of many over-the-counter cold and allergy preparations. The levels detected were within the therapeutic dose ranges of the substances.


Mason Valley Fire District firefighters responded to a postcrash fire involving N204D and a private residence located at 310 Sandy Avenue, Yerington. A suppressive foam was sprayed on the structure and the fire was extinguished about 20 minutes after their arrival. Upon entering the house, firefighters found the engine with the propeller attached in a bathtub that was located in the rear of the dwelling.


The wreckage of N19281 was released to Marvin Rogge, a representative of the registered owner on November 19, 1998. The wreckage of N204D was released to Jerry Wallace, a representative of the registered owner on November 19, 1998.

The ELT's in both N19281 and N204D were destroyed in the crash. No ELT signals were reportedly heard at any time after the collision of the two aircraft.

The wreckage of N19281 was moved from the crash site and back to the airport by emergency personnel prior to the arrival of Safety Board investigators.

NTSB Probable Cause

the failure of the pilot of Cessna 185 to see and avoid the preceding airplane, which was already established in the traffic pattern. A factor was the failure of both pilots to announce their intentions on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency.

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