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N5181E accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Sanger, TX
33.363171°N, 97.173903°W

Tail number N5181E
Accident date 09 Apr 1995
Aircraft type Cessna 180B
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 9, 1995, at approximately 1800 central daylight time, a Cessna 180B, N5181E, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Sanger, Texas. The airline transport rated pilot was fatally injured. The airplane, part-owned and operated by the pilot, departed from a local airstrip, Bar VK Air Ranch Estates, at approximately 1755 for the personal cross country flight to Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke, Texas. No flight plan was filed or weather briefing received for the Title 14 CFR Part 91 flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed throughout the area at the time of the accident.

Witnesses observed the airplane in straight and level flight, heading south along a valley, at a "low" altitude. One witness reported that as the airplane approached the head of the valley, it climbed to 200 to 300 feet above ground level, and then entered a steep right turn. He further reported that when the airplane had completed 180 degrees of turn, "it was now flying upside down", and then "all of a sudden it turned nose straight down and plowed into the ground." Another witness observed the airplane "doing roll-overs" and stated that the airplane "came out of a roll-over and plunged straight down to the ground." Two additional witnesses who observed portions of the event had consistent recollections.

One of the witnesses stated that "the winds were strong and gusting, blowing from the south to the north." Another witness reported that the "wind speed at the time of the crash was approximately 35 to 45 mph out of the south." He also remarked that the airplane "would have felt the full force of the wind on the belly" as it completed 90 degrees of turn.


The pilot was employed by a major airline. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated he had 5,500 hours total flight time as of October 14, 1994. According to the pilot's non-work flight logbook, he had accumulated a total of 81 hours in the airplane since he and a partner purchased it in the spring of 1994.


A review of the airframe and engine logbooks did not reveal any anomalies or uncorrected maintenance defects.


All major components of the airplane were located within approximately 40 feet of the initial ground scar. The scar consisted of a central crater surrounded by a pattern of heavy indentations corresponding to the landing gear, lift struts, and wing leading edges. Foliage was cleanly sliced at an angle of approximately 80 degrees from the side of a tree overhanging the ground scar.

The fuselage came to rest inverted adjacent to the ground scar on a measured heading of 310 degrees magnetic. The tail cone and empennage section remained attached to the cabin section only by control cables. During rescue efforts, the cables were cut by local authorities and the cabin section was rotated into the ground scar. Both wings separated from the fuselage and were crushed aft across the entire span. The wing skins were bulged outward and torn open at the fuel bladder locations. Due to the extent of the impact damage, control continuity could not be established.

The engine was buried in muddy ground up to the level of the accessory case in the central crater. The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft and one blade separated from the propeller hub. Both blades displayed chordwise scratches and leading edge gouging. The blade that remained attached to the hub evidenced torsional twisting. Examination of the engine disclosed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical failure.


The autopsy was performed by Marc A. Krouse, M.D., of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of Tarrant County in Fort Worth, Texas. According to Dr. Canfield of the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute, the toxicological finding of ethanol (alcohol) in the liver "is most likely from postmortem ethanol production."


The wreckage was released to the co-owner.

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