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N1406Y accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Darrington, WA
48.255387°N, 121.601514°W

Tail number N1406Y
Accident date 24 Apr 1993
Aircraft type Cessna 172C
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 24, 1993, at 2123 hours Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Cessna 172C, registered to and operated by Brent L. Roulier, d/b/a Ads Aloft, and being flown by David B. Gillespie, a certificated private pilot, was destroyed during a collision with terrain following a loss of power during descent near Darrington, Washington. The pilot was fatally injured. Variable meteorological dark night conditions existed throughout northwestern Washington at the time of the accident and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was personal in nature, was to have been operated in accordance with the requirements set forth in 14CFR91, and originated at Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, at approximately 1755 hours.

On April 24, 1993, at 1145 hours, pilot Robert H. Whitlow entered the Renton Airport traffic pattern in N1406Y executing three takeoffs and landings. After the final landing, at approximately 1205 hours, he taxied back to the ramp and picked up pilot Gillespie. The aircraft then departed Renton at approximately 1215 hours on a banner tow flight over Seattle returning at 1245 hours. Pilot Whitlow reported that pilot Gillespie then indicated he wanted to fly the aircraft but was not specific as to his destination (refer to attached statement of Robert Whitlow). Pilot Gillespie's wife reported that she and her husband had planned on flying to Coeur d' Alene on April 24th to attend a wedding which was to be conducted on the boat "Kootenai" in Coeur d' Alene Lake on that afternoon. The trip was cancelled as N1406Y was scheduled for a banner tow flight on the same day.

At 1310 hours, pilot Gillespie contacted the Renton Airport control tower via radio from N1406Y and requested a straight out departure to the south. He did not indicate his destination. The straight line distance from Renton to Coeur d' Alene was measured on a sectional chart as 255 statute (221 nautical) miles. Mrs. Gillespie reported that none of the wedding guests aboard the Kootenai remembered seeing pilot Gillespie aboard the boat. At approximately 1710 hours, Brett E. Sarber, a line service technician for Empire Airlines at the Coeur d' Alene airport, observed N1406Y taxi onto the Empire ramp. Mr. Sarber was unable to confirm whether the aircraft had just landed or was merely taxiing from one location on the airport to the Empire ramp. The pilot requested that the right fuel tank be topped off and this was accomplished by Mr. Sarber. The amount of fuel added was 13.8 gallons. The left fuel tank was not serviced. Shortly thereafter, the aircraft departed.

Mr. Sarber stated that he "noticed about ten minutes after he (the aircraft) took off that he was taxiing back toward Empire at a speed greater than normal for taxiing." He inquired as to what the problem was and the pilot indicated that the oil cap had come off. The problem was corrected by the pilot and the aircraft once again departed (refer to statement of Brett E. Sarber).

At 1801 hours N1406Y was issued a transponder code of 4666 for flight following by Spokane Approach Control. A radar target with this code was observed at 1804:47 hours by the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) at a location bearing 252 degrees magnetic and 11 nautical miles from the Coeur d' Alene Airport. The mode C altitude readout showed the aircraft climbing through 3900 feet above mean sea level (MSL).

The aircraft was tracked via transponder code 4666 on radar until 1944:45 hours and the pilot was advised by the Seattle (ARTCC) controller to contact Seattle Center on frequency 123.9 mHz after crossing the Cascades and when desiring additional flight following. The last target was observed at a location bearing 057 degrees magnetic and 12 nautical miles from the Ellensberg VORTAC.

At 2014:01 hours, N1406Y contacted Seattle ARTCC for continued flight following, was issued a transponder code of 3560 and was radar identified at 2014:57. This radar target was observed at a location bearing 276 degrees magnetic and 28 nautical miles from the Ellensberg VORTAC.

Radar tracking of the aircraft via transponder code 3560 continued and, at 2122:28 hours, the pilot radioed Seattle ARTCC "We've got another problem, I'm out of gas." The radar target received at 2122:30 hours was observed at a location bearing 036 degrees magnetic and 26 nautical miles from the Snohomish County Airport (Paine Field, Everett, Washington). The aircraft crashed at a location bearing 020 degrees magnetic and 1 nautical mile from this radar target.

The aircraft was visually located on the morning of April 25th at approximately 3600 feet MSL on a sharp ridge approximately five nautical miles southwest of Darrington, Washington.


Pilot Gillespie, a non instrument rated pilot, received his private pilot certificate on January 17, 1993. He had accrued a total of 57.8 hours of flight time at the time of certification. His personal flight log, which was recovered from the accident site showed flights commencing on October 7, 1992, and continuing through April 24, 1993. His total flight time of 88 hours included the 0.5 hours flown with pilot Whitlow during the banner tow flight on the 24th of April but does not include the flight from Renton to Coeur d' Alene and then to the crash site. Additionally, he showed a total of two hours of instrument time and nine hours of night time.


According to pilot Whitlow, N1406Y departed Renton with full fuel (39 gallons usable) and flew 0.3 hour in the pattern at Renton followed by a 0.5 hour banner tow flight over Seattle. During the latter flight, pilot Whitlow was accompanied by pilot Gillespie. Pilot Whitlow reported that the aircraft landed at Renton at approximately 1245 and that the aircraft was not fueled prior to pilot Gillespie's departure at 1310.

According to Brent Roulier, owner/operator of N1406Y, the aircraft consumed an average of 8 gallons of fuel per hour.


There was no known record of the pilot obtaining a weather briefing prior to his departure from Renton or Coeur d' Alene. However, he contacted Seattle Radio on frequency 122.2 at 1917 hours and requested "the current weather at Stampede Pass and Renton, Washington." He was provided with "the weather and associated flight precautions and advised that VFR flight was not recommended" (refer to statement of David J. Kohn).


Refer to attached communication transcriptions.


Examination and photographic documentation of the accident site was provided by Sergeant John L. Taylor, Special Operations Division, Snohomish County Sheriff's Office during the recovery of the pilot's body.

The aircraft crashed in the Boulder River Wilderness Area of the Mount Baker National Forest. The location of the site was approximately 48 degrees 11.0 minutes North latitude and 121 degrees 42.6 minutes West longitude. The elevation of the site was approximately 3600 feet MSL and the terrain, which sloped 45 degrees downhill towards the southwest, was characteristic of heavily forested old growth timber with a light layer of patchy snow (refer to CHART I and photograph 1).

A conifer tree impact, whereby the top of the tree was broken off, was observed bearing approximately 150 feet southeast of the final (ground) impact site of the aircraft (refer to photograph 2).

A second impact with a conifer tree approximately 50 feet northwest of the previously described tree strike was observed. This tree remained intact and a major section of wing leading edge material was observed wrapped around the southeast face of the trunk (refer to photographs 3 and 5). Additional sections of wing were observed in the vicinity of the base of this tree (refer to photograph 4).

The majority of aircraft wreckage was observed broken into two major sections 1) the cabin area aft including the empennage and vertical/horizontal control surfaces and 2) the instrument panel and engine, located a short distance upslope (refer to photographs 6 through 8).

Sergeant Taylor reported that all major aircraft components were observed at or in the vicinity of the crash site with the exception of half of the propeller.

Subsequent examination of the wreckage after its recovery revealed one half of the fixed pitch propeller. The separation surface was observed to pass through the center of the propeller attach area and the fractures surfaces, which were grainy, were observed to be consistent with those associated with instantaneous bending overload. The one blade recovered was observed to be bent aft and the blade displayed no significant chordwise scratching or leading edge nicks/gouges.


Post mortem examination of pilot Gillespie was conducted by Eric L. Kiesel, M.D., Ph. D., Chief Medical Examiner, at the facilities of the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office on April 28, 1993. Death was attributed to "blunt impact" and was classified as accidental.

Toxicological evaluation was conducted by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory and all findings were negative for drugs, alcohol and carbon monoxide with the exception of a finding of salicylates (aspirin).


The wreckage, which was not immediately accessible for on site examination, was released to the owner for the purposes of removal and subsequent storage on April 30, 1993. The wreckage was subsequently removed from the site and examined at the facilities of Rainbow Salvage on October 8, 1993. (refer to attached NTSB Form 6120.15).

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