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N34994 accident description

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Crash location 43.416670°N, 97.033330°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 Chancellor, SD
43.372203°N, 96.986997°W
3.9 miles away

Tail number N34994
Accident date 04 Nov 1996
Aircraft type Cessna 177B
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On November 4, 1996, at 2104 central standard time, a Cessna 177B, N34994, was destroyed during impact with the terrain about 5 miles north of Chancellor, South Dakota. The pilot was attempting to find a suitable landing airport at the time of the accident. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The personal 14 CFR Part 91 flight was operating in night instrument meteorological conditions. No flight plan was on file. The flight departed Scottsbluff, Nebraska, time unknown, with the intended destination of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

At 2059 the pilot contacted Sioux Falls Air Traffic Control (ATCT), stating, "I'm landing. I have information Oscar and I am transponder equipped." To this the ATCT responded, "Yes sir, the airport is IFR. Are you requesting an IFR clearance? I can't let you come in VFR." The pilot then stated, "I can't do that. Is there anyplace else I can go?" The ATCT offered, "Tea/Great Plains Airport is one one zero heading from your present position and one two miles."

ATCT then suggested additional headings to the Tea/Great Plains Airport as the airplane continued to fly in a southerly direction. When asked by the ATCT, the pilot confirmed the altitude of the airplane to be 1,800 (feet mean sea level). At 2102 the controller asked, "OK sir, say your heading now please." The pilot answered, "I'm still at one eight three." This is the last known transmission received from the accident airplane.


The pilot born February 11, 1926, was the holder of a private pilot certificate with privileges for single engine land. He did not hold an instrument rating. His most recent biennial flight review was on December 1, 1995. He held a third class medical certificate issued on October 15, 1996. On the application for the medical examination he stated a total pilot time of 1,350 hours flying time. No logbook for the pilot was located.


The airplane was a Cessna 177B, N34994, serial number 17702144. The recording tachometer indicated 2,761 hours at the time of the accident. The most recent annual inspection was conducted on November 1, 1996, at 2,754 hours. A note in the airframe logbook indicated the directional gyro to be out of service at the time of the annual inspection. There were no other logbook entries or other information, indicating a repair to the instrument prior to the accident. The engine received a major overhaul on August 21, 1987, at 2,026 hours on the tachometer.


At the time of the accident the weather reporting station at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 15 miles to the northeast of the impact site, was recorded as 500 feet scattered, 1,900 feet overcast, 2 1/2 miles visibility in fog with winds 170 degrees at 5 knots.

Residents of the immediate area of the accident site stated that it was a dark night with the visibility restricted by fog.

There is no record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing prior to initiating the flight. Likewise, there was no record of the pilot obtaining in-flight weather briefings during the flight.


A copy of the transcript of conversations between the pilot of the accident airplane and the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Air Traffic Control Tower is attached as an addendum to this report.


The airplane impacted the terrain in a rolling open farm field. The elevation of the accident site was 1,530 feet msl. The entire airplane was located and accounted for within a fan shaped pattern from the initial impact point on a heading of 040 degrees magnetic spreading out for a distance of 518 feet. Within the initial impact marks was a ground scar measuring 1.5 feet by 3 feet containing red glass similar to a navigation light lens.

The entire wing was separated from the fuselage. The flight control continuity was established through the airplane. Fuel was found in both wing tanks. The vacuum pump was found to rotate and presented suction. On disassembly it was found to be internally intact.

The engine separated from the engine mount and airframe. It was the furthest portion of the wreckage from the initial point of impact. The propeller and spinner remained attached to the engine. Both propeller blades were bent, twisted and had chordwise abrasions and scratches on the camber faces. There were nicks on the trailing edges of both blades. The spinner had spiral crushing opposite to the direction of forward rotation. The carburetor was separated from the engine and found along the debris path.

The engine was moved to an enclosed location for further examination. The engine rotated freely and continuity was confirmed throughout. All cylinders displayed thumb compression and suction. Spark plugs and ignition leads functioned.

There were no mechanical discrepancies found during the examination of the wreckage which could be associated with a preexisting condition.


A post mortem examination of the pilot was conducted by LCM Pathologists, P.C. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on November 5, 1996. The cause of death was stated in the report as, "...blunt head trauma secondary to airplane crash." In addition to the trauma the report showed "...evidence of focally severe atherosclerotic coronary vascular disease. Accompanying the coronary vascular disease was an area of remote myocardial infarction on the lateral left ventricular wall. No evidence of acute infarction, arterial thrombosis, or plaque hemorrhage was seen. No other acute natural disease processes were identified to represent a precipitating cause for the airplane crash."

An toxicological examination of specimens from the pilot revealed Atenolol in the blood and urine. No specific amounts of the drug were given. A doctor was contacted who stated that the drug is a prescription medication prescribed for hypertension. He indicated the presence of the drug was not inconsistent in light of the above pathological findings.


Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration, Flight Standards District Office, Rapid City, South Dakota; Lycoming, Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and Cessna Aircraft Co., Wichita, Kansas.

The pilot's family was advised of the location of the wreckage, prior to the departure from the accident site on November 6, 1997.

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