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N1404F accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Grottoes, VA
38.267352°N, 78.825858°W

Tail number N1404F
Accident date 14 Apr 2000
Aircraft type Cessna 172H
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 14, 2000, at 1202 Eastern Daylight Time, a Cessna 172H, N1404F, was destroyed when it impacted terrain in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Grottoes, Virginia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and the flight was operating on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan between Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport (JGG), Williamsburg, Virginia, and Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD), Weyers Cave, Virginia. The business flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

The airplane departed Williamsburg about 1100. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control voice recordings, the pilot initially contacted in with Norfolk Approach Control, "climbing to 2,000 feet." The pilot was instructed to climb to 4,000 feet, and proceed directly to the Hopewell VOR (HPW). He was then handed off to the "east feeder" controller of Richmond Approach Control, where he was given several vectors, then instructed to proceed direct to the Gordonsville VOR (GVE), when able. He was later cleared to 6,000 feet, and was told to contact Richmond Approach on a "west feeder" position frequency. On that frequency, he was given an altimeter setting of 30.37, and later, was instructed to switch to a "Charlottesville east feeder" position frequency. When he checked in on that frequency, he was again given an altimeter setting of 30.37. At 1156:50, the pilot was told, "...descend and maintain five thousand fly heading two seven zero receiving staut proceed direct," which he acknowledged. At 1201:19, the pilot reported that he "has cerol excuse me proceeding direct staut." Approximately 10 seconds later, the controller initiated a series of attempts to contact the pilot, with no replies received.

STAUT was a non-directional beacon (NDB), that served as an initial approach fix for two instrument approaches to Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. It was 225 degrees magnetic, 4.2 nautical miles from Runway 05. CEROL was an intersection 055 degrees magnetic, 10.3 nautical miles from STAUT.

The radar data from the last 20 minutes of flight revealed that the airplane passed almost overhead the Gordonsville VOR about 1145, at 5,900 feet. It continued to the northwest, along a ground track of approximately of 310 degrees magnetic, for about 23 nautical miles. It then proceeded along a ground track of about 270 degrees magnetic for about 8 nautical miles, followed by a ground track of approximately 230 degrees for 1 1/2 nautical miles. About 1201:15, the airplane commenced a 90-degree right turn, to a 320-degree heading, for about another 1 1/2 nautical miles. The final radar returns indicated a track consistent with a left turn, for about 180 degrees, over a period of approximately 30 seconds.

Before the final left turn began, the airplane had been maintaining between 4,800 feet and 5,000 feet of altitude. At 1201:47, while still on the 320-degree ground track, it was at 5,000 feet. At 1201:52, when the ground track started indicating the left turn, it was at 4,900 feet. At 1201:57, after about 30 degrees of turn to the left, the airplane was at 4,800 feet. At 1202:06, after about 120 degrees of turn to the left, the airplane was at 4,500 feet. At 1202:11, the altitude was still 4,500 feet. At 1202:20, after about 180 degrees of turn to the left, the last altitude recorded was 4,300 feet.

The accident occurred during daylight hours, in the vicinity of 38 degrees, 13.09 minutes north latitude, 78 degrees, 45.58 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate. He received his instrument rating on April 20, 1999, after initially failing the practical portion of his rating examination on March 31, 1999. His logbook indicated he had accumulated about 254 hours of flight time, and 53 hours of simulated instrument flight time. It also indicated a total of 4/10 of an hour of actual instrument time, all on January 24, 1999.

During the 6 months prior to the accident , the pilot flew 2 1/2 hours of simulated instrument flight time. He flew 1 hour of simulated instrument flight time on December 13, 1999, and another hour on December 16, 1999, when he completed a biennial flight review. On January 3, 2000, he flew an additional 1/2 hour of simulated instrument flight time. During those three flights, he flew six instrument approaches.

The pilot's latest third class medical certificate was issued on October 26, 1999.


The STOL-equipped airplane had approximately 2,756 hours of operation. The last 100-hour inspection was accomplished on June 17, 1999. The airplane had had a special airworthiness certificate, restricted, banner tow airplane; however, according to the last 100-inspection logbook entry, "Restricted airworthiness certificate removed by...FAA."

Seat track airworthiness directive 87-20-03R2 was complied with on October 12, 1996.

The airplane's KR-86 ADF had been repaired, and returned to service on November 23, 1998. A GPS/COM was installed on November 14, 1998, and a new turn coordinator was installed on June 17, 1999. The altimeter, encoder, transponder, and static system were inspected on July 9, 1998.

The airplane was also equipped with an aural stall warning system.


The 1201 Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport weather observation included calm winds, a broken cloud layer at 2,500 feet above ground level, an overcast cloud layer at 4,300 feet above ground level, a temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit, and a dewpoint of 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

The airport's elevation was 1,201 feet.

At 1015, in the vicinity of Roanoke, Virginia, a pilot reported an overcast cloud layer from 1,600 feet to 5,600 feet.


The wreckage was located in the Shenandoah National Park, in wooded terrain, on the southwest side of Trayfoot Mountain. It was about 100 feet northwest of a ridgeline, near the 3,100-foot level, just off the Trayfoot Mountain Trail. The accident site was approximately 7 nautical miles, 122 degrees magnetic, from the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, and 9 nautical miles, 090 degrees magnetic, from the STAUT NDB.

The main wreckage was contained in an area about 30 by 10 feet, oriented along 330-degree magnetic axis. Just east of the main debris field, there was a 40-foot tree. Strike marks were found about 10 feet below the top of the tree, with another strike mark about 5 feet below those. The top strike marks included a limb that appeared to be cut off at a 45-degree angle. A second tree, about 10 feet northwest of the first, also exhibited damage. Beginning about 5 feet off the ground, the trunk was cleanly cut. The cut began at the bark, and continued downwards and inwards for about 14 inches, until it reached the center of the trunk. Below the cut, the 8-inch diameter trunk was split in half.

Next to the second tree was a crater, about 6 feet in diameter. Within the crater was a branch, about 2 feet in length and 5 inches in diameter, cleanly cut at 45-degree angles on both ends, in opposite directions. Most of the propeller assembly was found in the crater, with the hub sheared off the engine crankshaft mounting flange. One propeller blade had a large leading-edge nick, and almost all of the paint of the blade face had been scraped off at a 45-degree angle. The other propeller blade had fractured about 4 inches from the hub, and the section remaining was twisted 90 degrees in relation to the hub. At the point where the fracture occurred, the blade's leading and trailing edge chordwise fracture surfaces exhibited "lipping", that was bent aft. The remainder of the propeller blade, which was found near the end of the main debris trail, exhibited heavy chordwise scoring near the fracture point, and s-bending along the blade's length.

The Franklin engine could not be rotated due to impact damage. The top inspection panel was removed, and no internal anomalies were noted. The magnetos were destroyed, as was the vacuum pump. Rotational scoring and rotational smudging were found on the inside wall of the vacuum pump housing.

All flight control surfaces, along with the elevator counterweights, were accounted for at the scene. Control continuity checks could not be performed due to impact damage, and control cables exhibited a broom-straw separation appearance. The cockpit was destroyed.

The fuel tanks had ruptured; however, small quantities of fuel were found in several fuel lines, and an odor of fuel was noted in the dirt throughout the site. Several fuel samples were checked, with one exhibiting some cloudiness, and the others being blue in color, clear, and absent of debris. The samples were also tested for water, with none found.


On April 16, 2000, an autopsy was conducted on the pilot's remains by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Western District, Roanoke, Virginia. Toxicological testing was conducted by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Criminal Justice Services, Division of Forensic Science, Richmond, Virginia, as well as the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Prior to the flight, the pilot had contacted the Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station four times. At 2146, the previous evening, the pilot obtained an IFR outlook briefing by telephone, from Williamsburg to Shenandoah Valley Airport. At 0952, on the day of he accident, he obtained an IFR weather briefing by telephone, and filed an IFR flight plan. At 1012, the pilot called by telephone to amend his altitude. At 1150, the pilot called by radio, and obtained then-current weather conditions at Shenandoah Valley Airport.

The airplane's wreckage was released to the Virginia State Police. It was subsequently re-released to a representative of the airplane's insurer, Phoenix Aviation Managers, Inc., Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

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