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N1978Q accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Watertown, SD
44.899409°N, 97.115073°W

Tail number N1978Q
Accident date 26 Apr 2000
Aircraft type Cessna 177RG
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 26, 2000, at 2155 central daylight time, a Cessna 177RG, N1978Q, operated by Priority Air, Inc., was destroyed when it impacted the water in a slough located approximately 7.75 nautical miles south of the Watertown Municipal Airport (ATY), Watertown, South Dakota. The airplane was found in about 3 feet of water and 20 feet from the shoreline of the slough. The bearing to the airport was about 353 degrees. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries. The 14 CFR Part 91 positioning flight had departed the Joe Foss Airport (FSD), Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at 2119 and was en route to ATY where the airplane was based. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at ATY. The airplane was on an IFR flight plan.

The operator reported the pilot had departed ATY about 1430 on April 26, 2000, on a 14 CFR Part 135 flight to Central Nebraska Regional Airport (GRI), Grand Island, Nebraska. The operator reported that on the return positioning flight, the pilot departed GRI en route to ATY on a 14 CFR Part 91 VFR flight plan. N1978Q made an unscheduled landing at FSD. The pilot contacted the Huron Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) for a weather brief, and filed an IFR flight plan at FSD to fly direct to ATY located 81 nautical miles north.

The AFSS weather briefer informed the pilot that a trough line that ran north and south was moving eastward across the state. Thunderstorms and rain showers were in front of the trough line in the eastern part of the state. Moderate turbulence could be expected below 7,000 feet. A pilot report indicated a freezing level at 10,000 feet. There were no convective SIGMETS for the area. Radar indicated light precipitation along the route of flight from FSD to ATY. Thunderstorms were located 30 to 40 miles west of the route of flight in the Mitchell, South Dakota, area, and were moving east at 8 to 10 knots. VFR flight was not recommended.

The AFSS weather briefer reported that the en route forecast for eastern South Dakota was occasional ceilings 3,000 feet, scattered 3 mile visibility, thunderstorms and light rain showers. The terminal forecast for ATY was winds 230 degrees at 10 knots, greater than 6 miles visibility, light rain, scattered clouds at 1,400 feet, overcast 4,500 feet; and occasionally 3 miles visibility, light rain, mist, scattered clouds at 1,000 feet, overcast 1,400 feet. Winds aloft in the ATY area at 3,000 feet were 250 degrees at 8 knots, and at 6,000 feet were 270 degrees at 13 knots.

The pilot filed an IFR flight plan to takeoff at 2115 and fly direct from FSD to ATY at 6,000 feet.

N1978Q departed FSD. At 2129:36, N1978Q contacted Minneapolis Center and reported checking in at 6,000 feet mean sea level (msl).

At 2135:59, Minneapolis Center stated, "November Seven Eight Quebec, descend pilot's discretion four thousand. Report Watertown Airport in sight for a visual. The wind two one zero at seven. Altimeter is 29.96."

At 2136:10, the pilot reported, "P D down to four, Seven Eight Quebec."

There were no further transmissions from N1978Q.

At 2153:55, radar contact was lost on N1978Q, approximately 11 nautical miles south of ATY. The last radar altitude readout indicated 3,800 feet msl.

At 2154:30, Minneapolis Center tried contacting N1978Q, without success. Minneapolis Center initiated procedures to locate N1978Q.

A witness who lived about one mile west of the accident site reported hearing an airplane crash. He reported that the airplane made a loud roaring noise or revving sound, and that it sounded "like it was banking." He then heard the loud sound of the impact. He did not see the airplane or any explosion.

The airplane was located at approximately 2300 in the "Five Ponds" area about 7.75 miles south of ATY.


The pilot was a commercially rated pilot with single engine land and helicopter ratings. He held instrument and instrument instructor ratings in single engine land airplanes. He was a Certified Flight Instructor in single engine land airplanes and helicopters. He held a Second Class medical certificate.

The pilot had a total of about 566 hours of flight time. Seventeen hours were in multi-engine airplanes. He had flown about 39 hours in the accident airplane in the last 90 days. He had a total of about 12 hours of actual instrument time, all of which had been flown in the last 90 days. He had a total of about 50 hours of night time with 16 hours flown in the last 90 days.

The operator reported the pilot was hired on November 29, 1999. The pilot was initially hired to be an instructor pilot. On March 29, 2000, the pilot completed a Part 135 check ride in a Cessna 177RG and was designated as a Part 135 "single engine VFR only" pilot.

The operator reported the pilot flew small parcels in N1978Q and in a Cessna 172. He reported the pilot was familiar with the airplanes because he also instructed students in the airplanes.


The airplane was a single engine Cessna 177RG, serial number 177RG0378. The airplane seated four and had a maximum gross weight of 2,800 pounds. The engine was a 200 horsepower Lycoming IO-360-A1B6D engine. The last annual inspection was conducted on September 1, 1999. The airplane had flown about 84 hours since the last inspection and had a total time of 3,513 hours.


At 2053, the ATY weather was: Winds 210 at 7 knots, 10 miles visibility, few clouds at 1,000 feet, scattered at 5,000 feet, overcast at 8,000 feet, temperature 52 degrees F, dew point 50 degrees F, altimeter 29.96.

At 2141, the ATY weather was: Winds 200 at 7 knots, 10 miles visibility, light rain showers, scattered at 1,800 feet, overcast at 2,400 feet, temperature 52 degrees F, dew point 50 degrees F, altimeter 29.95.

At 2153, the ATY weather was: Winds 200 at 8 knots, 10 miles visibility, light rain showers, few clouds at 1,000 feet, broken at 1,800 feet, overcast at 6,000 feet, temperature 52 degrees F, dew point 50 degrees F, altimeter 29.95.

At 2213, the ATY weather was: Winds 220 at 6 knots, 5 miles visibility, rain showers, mist, few clouds at 800 feet, broken at 1,600 feet, overcast at 3,800 feet, temperature 52 degrees F, dew point 50 degrees F, altimeter 29.95.


The ATY ILS RWY 35 approach plate depicts the inbound approach course as 354 degrees. The Final Approach Fix for the localizer approach is located 5.9 nautical miles from the end of runway 35. The Procedure Turn Inbound altitude was 4,000 feet msl, and the ILS glideslope intercept altitude is 3,800 feet. The airport elevation is 1,748 feet.

Wreckage and Impact Information

The airplane wreckage was located in a slough in the Five Ponds area about 7.75 nautical miles from the ATY airport at coordinates N 44 degrees, 47.139 minutes, and W 097 degrees, 8.064 minutes. The magnetic bearing to the airport was about 353 degrees. The wreckage path covered a distance of approximately 310 feet, oriented to the north, and in two to three feet of water.

The main wreckage included the empennage, fuselage, cockpit, and wings. The wings and wing carry-through had separated from the fuselage in one piece and was located about six feet north of the fuselage. The empennage, fuselage, and cabin exhibited compression and buckling. The left and right cockpit doors exhibited a crush angle of approximately 60 degrees nose down.

The leading edges of the left and right wings exhibited crushing and buckling along the entire span of the wings. The right inboard top wing skin and fueling port was found located on the right side of the wreckage path about 107 feet from the main wreckage. The left inboard top wing skin and fueling port was found located on the left side of the wreckage path about 117 feet from the main wreckage.

The engine was located under the main wreckage and was partially buried in the muddy bottom of the slough. Two of the three propeller blades were recovered from the wreckage site.

Inspection of the airplane wreckage revealed flight control continuity for the stabilator, stabilator trim, and rudder from the control surface to the pulley sector in the aft cabin floor. Flap continuity was established in both wings from the actuator to the surfaces. The flap actuator jackscrew indicated the flaps were up. Aileron control continuity could not be established due to damage forward of the main spar and the cabin. Both landing gear actuators indicated that the gear was retracted.

The engine exhibited extensive impact damage. The crankshaft could not be rotated.

The propeller blades exhibited chordwise scratching, polishing, and leading edge nicks and gouges along the span of the blades. One blade exhibited tip curl of about 90 degrees. The other blade exhibited forward bending of the blade tip. The propeller flange exhibited elongation of the propeller flange bolts and bending of the flange studs opposite the plain of rotation.

The attitude gyro, directional gyro, and the turn and bank indicator were examined. The gyros and gyro housings of the attitude indicator and directional gyros exhibited rotational scoring and gouging. The turn and bank gyro also exhibited rotational scoring.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot at Prairie Lakes Health Care Center, Watertown, South Dakota.

A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute. The report concerning the pilot indicated the following results:

Carbon monoxide not performed.

Cyanide not performed.

16 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in muscle.

14 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in kidney.

No drugs detected in liver.

See attached "NTSB Interpretation of Blood Alcohol Levels Found in Transportation Operators."


The operator reported he had flown N1978Q the day prior to the accident and that the airplane operated normally.

The operator reported the pilot had contacted him according to company policy during the stopover at Grand Island, Nebraska. He reported the company policy did not require the pilot to contact the operator during an unscheduled en route delay. The operator reported he would have advised the pilot to remain overnight at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, if the pilot had contacted him.

Parties to the investigation included the Federal Aviation Administration, Cessna Aircraft Company, and Textron Lycoming.

The airplane wreckage was released to Priority Air, Inc.

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