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N85WM accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Waynesboro, PA
39.755927°N, 77.577769°W

Tail number N85WM
Accident date 16 Aug 1994
Aircraft type Cessna 320C
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On Tuesday, August 16, 1994, at 1727 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 320C, N85WM, registered to and piloted by Gary L. Gardner, was destroyed during impact with a residence in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. The pilot, one passenger, and two occupants of the residence were fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and an IFR flight plan was filed. The flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The pilot of N85WM contacted the Buffalo Automated Flight Service Station at 1439 and filed an IFR flight plan from the Greater Rochester International/Monroe County Airport, Rochester, New York, to the Winchester Regional Airport, Winchester, Virginia. The pilot estimated a time en route of 2 hours, and a fuel load of 4.5 hours.

A refueler at Rochester stated that he serviced N85WM with 41 gallons of 100LL Aviation Gasoline, by "topping the mains" prior to the departure. According to the Cessna 320C Owner's Manual, each of the two main fuel tanks has a useable fuel capacity of 50 gallons.

N85WM departed Rochester at 1528, after receiving an IFR clearance. An altitude of 7,000 feet was initially assigned, followed by a climb to 8,000 feet. The following are excerpts from communications between the pilot of N85WM and the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center Controller (ARTC):

1654:58...N85WM...Ah washington center eight five whiskey mike with you at eight thousand

1655:03...ARTC....November eight five whiskey mike washington center roger

1656:06...N85WM...Eight five whiskey mike can i go direct martinsburg

1656:08...ARTC....Eight five whiskey mike cleared as requested

1657:19...N85WM...ah eight [five whiskey mike] can i go down to six thousand

1658:00...ARTC....November [eight five whiskey mike descend and maintain six [thousand]

1704:34...N85WM...November eight five whiskey mike i lost my ah right engine eight five whiskey mike

1704:40...ARTC....November eight five whiskey mike ah roger ah turn left heading of one six zero vectors for hagerstown airport

The controller provided the pilot with the weather at the Hagerstown/Washington County Regional Airport, Hagerstown, Maryland: special, 1500 broken, 2000 overcast, visibility of 1 1/2 miles with light rain showers, winds from 190 degrees at 5 knots.

The controller advised the pilot that he would provide vectors for a straight-in ILS approach to runway 27.

At 1711:08, the pilot of N85WM transmitted: "I got number two running again [but] it's not running well."

The controller asked the pilot if the airplane had "full ILS capability." The pilot replied, "affirmative..."

Also, the controller advised the pilot that the "Noli outer maker is out of service."

At 1719:04, the pilot was instructed to "turn right to a heading of two five zero [degrees] maintain three thousand seven hundred until established on the localizer cleared for a straight in ILS runway 27."

The controller then advised the pilot that he was 2 miles from Noli intersection and instructed him to maintain 3,000 feet.

After switching to the Hagerstown Tower, the pilot advised, "i don't i'm not receiving anything."

The controller advised the pilot that there were no problems reported with the ILS from airplanes that had landed previously.

Washington Center contacted the tower via ground line and advised that N85WM was still at 3,900 feet and "inside nolin [intersection]." The controllers discussed the option of offering the pilot a VOR approach, rather than the ILS, because of the apparent problem the pilot was experiencing tuning in the ILS.

The pilot asked for a clearance to Winchester or Martinsburg. He was instructed to abandon the approach and provided a clearance to climb to 4,000 feet, direct to the Hagerstown VOR and to contact Washington Center.

At 1724:38, the pilot of N85WM responded: "Five whiskey mike climbing to four."

This was the last recorded transmission from the pilot. The controllers observed the airplane's altitude vary from 2,600' to 3,200', north of the Nolin intersection before losing radar contact.

Witnesses heard and observed the airplane maneuvering overhead. They described the airplane as "flying in and out of the clouds...erratically...circling...climbing steeply...nearly a vertical descent...and an engine was sputtering."

A witness who lives on the approach path to runway 27 stated that she heard an airplane in the clouds over her home, and an "engine was sputtering and backfiring." She also said "the airplane circled to the right and disappeared in a northerly direction."

Another witness stated:

[I] heard [an] aircraft circling and [the] engine was sputtering and backfiring. [I] saw [the] aircraft break through clouds. It then pitched nose up...then spun 180 degrees and then the nose appeared to be heading almost straight down until it disappeared behind houses. Heard engine rev just before impact.

An off-duty air traffic controller stated that he heard the airplane overhead with "engine trouble." He stated that the engines would "start and then stop, then start again as it was circling." He said the airplane entered a vertical descent, and at approximately 200 feet, it appeared that the pilot attempted to recover, but it impacted the house at a 45 degree angle.

Another witness said, "A huge ball of fire, explosion and large amount of debris left the house....Wreckage was burning in the parking lot."

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight, about latitude 39 degrees, 45 minutes North; longitude 77 degrees, 36 minutes West.


The airplane impacted a three-story residence, which was destroyed by post-impact fire.


The pilot, Gary L. Gardner, held a Private Pilot Certificate, issued on February 8, 1975. His ratings included airplane single-engine land and instrument. He was issued a Third Class Airman Medical Certificate on December 14, 1993, with the limitation that corrective lenses must be worn, while exercising the privileges of the certificate.

His most recent Biannual Flight Review was conducted on March 3, 1993, in the Cessna 320C.

Mr Gardner attempted to obtain a rating for airplane multi-engine land with instruments on three occasions, but he failed each examination. In a report, the designated examiner for these examinations stated:

I tested Mr. a Cessna 320, on 03-18-93, 04-18-93, and on 05-24-93 for an Airplane Multi-Engine Land with Instrument practical test. All three tests resulted in failures....

The first attempt...was failed during the oral portion....The second test...was failed due to improper recovery during a VMC demonstration, instrument flight, single engine approach and landing and use of the checklist. The third test was...failed on instrument flight, single engine approach and landing.

After the test on May 24, 1993, I suggested to both Mr. Gardner and his flight instructor that the flight instructor get him ready for a "VFR ONLY" multi-engine flight test in his Cessna 320 and when it was instrument conditions he take a pilot with him until such time that he had sufficient experience and instruction in the airplane to meet the...standards. I never heard from him again.

The Federal Aviation Administration Airman Records Branch had no records of an application for reexamination by Mr. Gardner for a multi-engine rating.

Mr. Gardner's pilot logbook indicated a total of 1055 flight hours. The logbook did not have entries for flights conducted on August 12, 1994, nor the flight time on the day of the accident. It was estimated that approximately 8 hours of flight time had not been entered. Including this additional estimated time, Mr. Gardner had flown a total of 22 hours in the last 12 months.


The Washington County Regional Airport Control Tower issued a special weather observation at 1732, which reported: ceiling estimated 1,000 feet broken, 2,000 feet overcast, visibility 1 1/2 miles, with rain and fog, temperature 66 degrees F, dew point 63 degrees F, winds 180 degrees at 4 knots.

A pilot of another airplane, which departed this airport at the time that N85WM was being vectored for the approach, stated that he entered the clouds at 1000 feet and was in solid cloud conditions up to and including 6000 feet.


The Federal Aviation Administration conducted an airborne flight inspection of the ILS at this airport on August 18, 1994. The system was graded "Satisfactory" in all components.


The wreckage was examined at the accident site, on August 16, 1994. The examination revealed that after the airplane struck the residence, parts and pieces were scattered on a path covering 423 feet, on a magnetic heading of 138 degrees. The residence caught on fire after the impact. One propeller blade was found in the remains of the residence. The right engine was located in the middle of the road, about 42 feet from the residence. The oil sump was crushed and the case was fractured in several places.

On the wreckage path, various parts were found, including the rear cargo door, navigational maps, airplane interior carpeting, and the ELT. The empennage, left engine, and parts of both wings were located in a parking lot, about 105 feet beyond the right engine.

Continuing on the same wreckage path was a seat, various pieces of airplane fuselage, the upper fuselage, and against a cement wall, the bottom of the fuselage and parts of the cockpit.

The instrument panel, including navigational and communications equipment, and the cockpit switches were destroyed, and no useful information was obtained.

Investigators accounted for all flight controls, but continuity could not be established, due to impact separation of the components.

The left engine vacuum pump was partially disassembled. No discrepancies were noted.

Two propeller blades were located in a parking lot, 283 feet beyond the left engine. These blades exhibited torsional twisting, bending and leading edge gouges and nicks.

The wreckage was removed from the accident site to a salvage facility for additional examination. The left engine fuel selector valve was found in the MAIN position, and the right engine fuel selector valve was in the OFF position.

The landing gear and wing flap actuators were in the UP positions. The rudder trim tab indicated about 21 degrees TAB RIGHT position.


An autopsy of the pilot was performed by Dr. I. Mihalakis, on August 17, 1994, at the Leheigh Valley Hospital Center, Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Toxicological testing was performed on the pilot by Dr. Barry Levine, of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, on September 12, 1994.


Both engines were examined under the control and supervision of John V. Moeller, Airworthiness Inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, at the Teledyne Continental Company, Mobile, Alabama, on February 8, 1995. The following are excerpts from his report:

* [The left engine] was severely damaged from impact.

* The oil sump was crushed...the oiler cooler was crushed.

* The right side crankcase half was cracked apart from the bottom number five cylinder to the backbone of the case.

* The crankcase was broken away from the number six cylinder.

* The throttle body had broken off the engine.

* Other then impact damage the upper valve train components appeared normal and functional.

* One half of the propeller governor drive gear on the crankshaft was broken.

* ...the engine appeared capable of producing power.

* [The right engine] had fire and impact damage.

* The top half of the accessory case was broken off.

* The oil cooler was crushed.

* The vacuum pump was broken open to expose the pump blades.

* There was no evidence of lubrication/thermal distress nor detonation/pre-ignition within the engine.

* ...the engine appeared capable of producing power.


In an interview, Mr. Bill Stenning stated that he had flown several times with Mr. Gardner, both in N85WM and his own Cessna 310. He is a Certified Flight Instructor with a single engine rating. He said he never provided Mr. Gardner with instruction, but flew with him only as a safety pilot. His last flight with Mr. Gardner was on July 19, 1994, during a flight from Winchester, Virginia to Islip, New York. The duration of the round-trip flight was 5.2 hours. Mr. Stenning said that Mr. Gardner was "attentive to rules, regulations and procedures, but he was rusty in the gages, which would be expected from someone who had not flown much recently." He said the airplane performed "ok."

The airplane wreckage was released on August 18, 1994, to Mr. Al Fiedler, representing the Signal Insurance Company.

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