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N9785M accident description

Oregon map... Oregon list
Crash location 42.606667°N, 123.475000°W
Nearest city Merlin, OR
42.517339°N, 123.419785°W
6.8 miles away
Tail number N9785M
Accident date 09 Apr 2003
Aircraft type Cessna T207 A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On April 9, 2003, about 0850 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna T207 A, N9785M, was destroyed when it collided with mountainous terrain in a remote area approximately seven nautical miles northwest of Merlin, Oregon. The airplane was owned by the pilot, and was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country business flight under the provisions of Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The airline transport pilot-in-command, and the one passenger aboard the airplane were fatally injured. No flight plan was filed for the flight that originated from the North Bend Municipal Airport, North Bend, Oregon, approximately 40 minutes prior to the accident. The pilot's planned destination was the Grants Pass Airport (3S8), Grants Pass, Oregon.

On April 9, family members of the pilot notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the airplane was overdue at its planned destination of Grants Pass. Subsequent to the report, the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) issued an ALNOT (alert notice) for a missing aircraft, and a search was initiated. The following day, about 1300, the aircraft wreckage was located in a heavily wooded area northwest of Grants Pass.

Subsequent to the aircraft's takeoff from North Bend, radar facilities in Salem, Oregon, and Klamath Falls, Oregon, recorded a 1200 beacon code on a southeasterly track, originating from the North Bend area and continuing southeasterly to a point approximately 9 miles northwest of the accident site. The last radar target was recorded at 42 degrees 43 minutes 28 seconds North latitude and 123 degrees 34 minutes 50 seconds West longitude. The target's pressure altitude was 5,200 feet and descending approximately 100 - 200 feet per minute. The last radar return was at 0847 Pacific daylight time.

The Grants Pass Airport is located approximately 66 nautical miles southeast of the North Bend Airport. The terrain is generally classified as mountainous.


The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with single-engine land, multi-engine land/sea, and instrument airplane ratings. In addition to the before mentioned ratings, the pilot held eight individual type ratings, mostly in transport category aircraft.

On his most recent second-class medical application, dated October 1, 2001, the pilot indicated that he had accumulated approximately 34,976 total flight hours, including approximately 97 hours in the six months preceding the application date.


The accident airplane, a 1981 Turbo Stationair (serial number 20700729), was issued a standard airworthiness certificate (normal) in September of 1981. The single engine airplane was powered by a turbocharged Continental TSIO-520 series engine, rated at 310 horsepower.

Maintenance records indicated that the last inspection, an annual inspection of the airframe, engine and propeller, was completed on April 6, 2003. The airframe total time at inspection was 4,516 hours. No open discrepancies were noted.


The closest weather observation facility is the Sexton Summit (KSXT) Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS), which is approximately six nautical miles east of the accident location. The 0847 observation at KSXT reported, in part: winds from 150 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 1 statute mile; few clouds at 100 feet AGL; scattered clouds at 900 feet AGL; overcast clouds at 1,900 feet AGL; temperature 6 degrees Celsius; dew point 5 degrees Celsius and altimeter setting 30.04 inches.

Additionally, personnel from Josephine County Search and Rescue reported low clouds and overcast skies northwest of Grants Pass, in the general vicinity of the accident on the morning of April 9.


On April 14, 2003, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, Cessna Aircraft and the Federal Aviation Administration accessed the wreckage and conducted the on-site portion of the investigation.

The main wreckage was located on public forested land at 42 degrees 36.395 minutes' north latitude and 123 degrees 28.460 minutes' west longitude. The elevation at the main wreckage site was approximately 2,880 feet above sea level. The first identified point of contact was a large conifer tree (estimated to be 125 feet in height) located near the ridge top, uphill from where the main wreckage came to rest. The magnetic bearing from the conifer tree (elevation of approximately 2,950 feet MSL) to the main wreckage was approximately 121 degrees. The terrain sloped down hill from the initial point of contact to the main wreckage.

All airplane components were located at the accident site. The main wreckage, consisting of the charred remains of the fuselage, engine, propeller assembly, right wing and a large section of the empennage, were located at the southeast end of the wreckage distribution path, approximately 792 feet from the first identified point of contact. The remains of the fuselage were found inverted and were extensively damaged by impact forces and post-crash fire. The cockpit controls, instrument panel and cabin area was destroyed by fire and impact forces. The engine assembly was partially separated from the fuselage. The propeller assembly was found attached to the crankshaft flange. All three propeller blades remained attached to the hub assembly. Nominal bending was noted to propeller blade number one. Propeller blade number two was bent forward, near mid-span, approximately 90 degrees. Aft bending and trailing edge gouging was noted to propeller blade three. All three blades were loose in the propeller hub assembly.

A section of the left wing spar, and associated lift strut, was located approximately 25 feet southeast of the initial point of contact. A large section of the left wing was located in a tree along the approximate centerline of the wreckage track, approximately 175 feet southeast of the initial point of contact. The wing was approximately 70 feet up from the base of the tree. Further down the wreckage track, approximately 205 feet from the initial point of contact, a section of the left elevator was located near the top of a large conifer tree. The remainder of the elevator was located with the main wreckage.

Numerous system components and pieces of wreckage was scattered between the initial point of contact and the main wreckage. The wreckage track generally ran from northwest to southeast. A number of large conifer trees along the wreckage track had been topped and de limbed.


Representatives from the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office, Portland, Oregon, conducted a postmortem examination on April 14, 2003. According to the postmortem report, the pilot's cause of death was attributed to "Severe massive blunt trauma." The manner of death was listed as accidental.

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to the postmortem toxicology report, results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, legal and illegal drugs. See attached report for specific test parameters and results.


On May 22, 2003, representatives from Teledyne Continental Motors, Cessna Aircraft and the National Transportation Safety Board examined the airplane's engine.

Extensive impact and thermal damage was noted to the engine assembly and associated engine components. Portions of the exhaust tubing, intake tubing and balance tube were crushed and distorted. Both crankcase halves and all cylinder assemblies sustained impact and thermal damage, but were intact. Valve train and accessory gear continuity was established by manually rotating the engine's crankshaft. Valve actuation was noted. Compression was produced in all six cylinders when the crankshaft was manually rotated. Impact and thermal damage was noted to the turbo charger and coupled components, however, the intake was clear and the turbine rotated freely. Both magnetos produced spark in progression when the crankshaft was rotated. The top six spark plugs were removed and examined with no irregularities noted. The engine fuel pump was intact. The unit was removed and visually inspected. The pump was manually rotated and the drive coupling was intact. The fuel manifold valve and associated fuel lines were intact. The valve was removed, dissembled and visually examined. The diaphragm was intact and the screen was free of contaminates. The vacuum pump was intact. When removed, the pump rotated freely via the drive coupling. Disassembly of the unit revealed that the rotor and vanes were whole, in position, and moved freely. The engine oil pump and associated filter were intact. Disassembly and examination of the unit revealed that the pump cavity and associated gears were intact and no evidence of foreign debris was found. The oil filter was opened and oil was present. No foreign debris was noted.

Examination and teardown of the airplane's engine revealed no evidence of a mechanical malfunction or failure.


On October 30, 2003, the airplane wreckage and associated components were released to the pilot's family in Anchorage, Alaska.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain while in cruise flight. Factors include low ceilings and mountainous terrain.

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