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N738JR accident description

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Crash location 38.352222°N, 78.502222°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 Stanardsville, VA
38.297352°N, 78.440010°W
5.1 miles away

Tail number N738JR
Accident date 18 Aug 2002
Aircraft type Cessna 172N
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 18, 2002, about 2050 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N738JR, was destroyed when it collided with trees and mountainous terrain at night near Stanardsville, Virginia. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. No flight plan was filed for the flight that originated at the Charlottesville-Albermarle Airport (CHO), Charlottesville, Virginia, about 1937. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

Prior to departure, a witness observed the pilot performing a pre-flight inspection of the airplane and asked him where he was headed. The pilot stated that he was going to fly in the local area.

The pilot contacted the air traffic control tower prior to takeoff, and requested a northwest departure from the airport.

A review of radar data revealed that a visual flight rules (VFR) target headed north-northwest from the airport, then crossed over the Shenandoah National Park, Shenandoah, Virginia. The target then maneuvered along the northwestern edge of the park before it turned toward the southeast. The target proceeded on the southeasterly heading for several minutes, in a shallow descent, before the data ended about 2050.

The airplane was reported missing on August 19, 2002, and a search was initiated. The airplane was located later that day in heavily wooded terrain near the 3,375 foot msl peak of Saddleback Mountain.

The accident occurred during nighttime hours, approximately 38 degrees, 21 minutes north latitude, 78 degrees, 30 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for single engine land and instrument airplane.

His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third class medical certificate was issued on August 14, 2002.

On August 9, 2002, the pilot completed a 1.3-hour biennial flight review (BFR), and on August 13, 2002, he completed a 1.5-hour flight at night in the accident airplane, with a certified flight instructor (CFI).

Examination of the pilot's logbook revealed that prior to the BFR, he had not logged any flight time since September 20, 2000. His last solo flight was in November 1989.

The pilot had accrued a total of 318.9 flight hours, of which, 59.4 hours were at night.

According to the pilot's flight instructor, the pilot's orientation for night flying was "okay." During the night check-out, the instructor took the pilot to the "other side of the ridge," then instructed him to find his way back to Charlottesville airport. The pilot was able to find his way back to the airport, and was also able to identify several other airports during the flight. Once back at the airport, they practiced several take-offs and landings.


Examination of fuel records revealed that the airplane was refueled prior to the accident flight with 23 gallons of 100 LL fuel, which filled the tanks.


Weather reported at Charlottesville Airport, at 2053, included wind from 240 degrees at 3 knots, visibility 6 miles, mist, clear skies, temperature 73 degrees F. and dewpoint 72 degrees F. The airport was located 180 degrees magnetic, 12.7 nautical miles from the accident site. Airport elevation was 639 feet msl.

According to the United States Naval Observatory, the moon on August 18, 2002, at 2100, in Charlottesville, Virginia, was 86 percent illuminated and positioned approximately 26 degrees above the horizon.


The wreckage was examined at the site on August 21, 2002. All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage came to rest on it's left side, oriented on a heading of 220 degrees, at an elevation of approximately 3,350 feet msl.

Initial tree impact scars started approximately 172 feet from the main wreckage. Tree impact scars became progressively lower on the trees in the direction of the wreckage, which was in a general direction of 155 degrees. Green foliage along the wreckage path was discolored yellow and was wilted.

At the beginning of the wreckage path were the outboard section of the right wing and a 2/3-section of the left wing. Also found along the wreckage path were the propeller spinner and a section of the right flap.

The main wreckage consisted of the tail, cockpit area aft of the front seats, and the inboard section of the right wing.

The inboard section of the left wing and wing center section were separated from the airplane, and were found just forward of the main wreckage.

The top sections of several trees were found on or around the main wreckage. Examination of one of the trees revealed a deep gouge on the trunk. The gouge exhibited two distinct fracture surfaces. One of the fractured surfaces was flat and smooth, and the other fractured surface was splintered and exhibited a small amount of black paint transfer marks.

Several pieces of cut wood were also found around the engine. Examination of the wood revealed the ends were cut approximately 45 degrees, and exhibited black transfer marks.

The leading edges of both wings, and the tail control surfaces exhibited impact damage.

Control cable continuity was traced from each flight control surface attachment points to the cockpit. However, the cables for each flight control surface were fragmented and exhibited broom straw fractures.

Examination of the flap actuator revealed that the flaps were in the fully retracted position. The elevator trim actuator was overextended and a measurement could not be established.

The engine, along with the instrument panel, was also separated from the airplane, and came to rest about 50 feet forward of the main wreckage.

The engine was intact, and the propeller remained attached to the engine. One blade was bent aft about 45 degrees, exhibited leading edge gouging, and was twisted. The other blade was bent aft about 90 degrees, exhibited leading edge gouging, and had about 4 inches of the tip missing.

Examination of the engine revealed that the #2 cylinder sustained impact damage to the rocker cover and cooling fins. An initial attempt to rotate the engine revealed that it would not rotate more than 350 degrees. However, during the initial attempt to rotate the engine, continuity was established to the engine accessories.

The cylinders were then systematically removed until the engine would rotate beyond 350 degrees. Upon removal of the last cylinder, the engine rotated freely, and continuity was established to the engine and accessory gears.

Examination of the #2 and #3 cylinders' push rods revealed that they were bent.

The engine accessories were removed from the engine and examined. The dual magneto was intact, and when manually rotated, spark was produced on each ignition lead.

The vacuum pump was also intact, but when manually rotated, there was restricted movement to the drive gear. The pump was disassembled, and no deficiencies were noted. The pump was reassembled, and the drive gear moved freely when manually rotated.

The oil sump and screen were absent of debris.

The carburetor was removed from the engine and examined. The fuel screen had separated, but the bowl was intact and found empty.

The altimeter had sustained impact damage, and only internal sections of the instrument were recovered.

The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was found installed in the airplane, and it was set to the "auto" position. When tested, the ELT functioned normally.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on September 21, 2002, at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Richmond, Virginia.

Toxicological testing was conducted by the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


The airplane wreckage was released on August 21, 2002, to a representative of the salvage company.

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