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N8472C accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Battleground, WA
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Tail number N8472C
Accident date 15 Jul 1993
Aircraft type Piper PA-34-220T
Additional details: None
No position found

NTSB Factual Report


On July 15, 1993, at approximately 1446 hours Pacific daylight time (PDT), a Piper Seneca PA-34-220T, N8472C, registered to River City Flying Service, Inc., being operated by Flightcraft, Inc., and flown by Eric E. Smith, a certificated airline transport rated pilot, collided with trees, a power line, and terrain while maneuvering in the vicinity of his residence near Battleground, Washington. The aircraft and a parked truck were destroyed and a residence sustained damage from flying debris. The pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was a functional maintenance check flight, was to have been operated in accordance with the requirements set forth in 14CFR91.

The aircraft departed Portland International Airport's runway 10L at 1436 hours PDT. A radar track provided by Portland Approach Control showed the aircraft turning left after departure and tracking to the Battleground VORTAC while climbing to approxi- mately 1900 feet above mean sea level (MSL). Approaching the VORTAC the aircraft turned right and headed northeast toward the accident site. The radar data showed the aircraft executing a left 360 degree turn while maintaining 1900 feet MSL. The ground speed of the aircraft derived from the radar data was approxi- mately 150 knots, increasing to 196 knots in the second quarter of the first turn and returning to approximately 150 knots for the last half of the turn. A second speed increase to 200 knots appears following the completion of the first full 360 degree turn. The last four targets show the aircraft at 1800 feet MSL with the airspeed increasing from 154 to 200 knots while continuing the counterclockwise turn. The radar then enters a "coast" mode and the data becomes unreliable (refer to ATTACHMENT RD-I).

A number of witnesses observed the aircraft flying a counter- clockwise circle in the vicinity of the accident site. All the witnesses confirmed hearing power, and the estimated elevation provided by the witnesses ranged from 1000-1500 feet above ground (AGL) to below the treetops. Several witnesses reported observing the aircraft enter a steep left wing down attitude and then begin a descent. None of the witnesses reported any sound consistent with a sudden loss of power (refer to attached witness statements).

The pilot's wife and father in law reported watching the aircraft as it circled overhead, and observed the left turn and nose down pitch. They also observed the aircraft's left wing impact a conifer tree and continue a rolling descent during which the right wing struck a power line. The aircraft then impacted the ground in the pilot's front yard.


The total pilot time as well as last 90 & 30 days and 24 hours (all aircraft) entered in the Flight Time Matrix (First Pilot Information) was derived from entries within three pilot logbooks reviewed by the Investigator, as well as flight time summaries provided by the operator for the period covering March 1992 through June 1993. All other flight times were based upon entries within the flight logs alone.

The first log opened with an instructional flight on April 26, 1972. This log was closed September 28, 1978, with a total of 274.7 hours which was carried into the second log opened on September 29, 1978. This log was closed December 30, 1981, with a total 3004.1 hours which was carried into the third log opened on December 31, 1981. The last entry within the third log was noted on March 26, 1992, resulting in a total pilot time of 6613.7 hours. A review of all three logs revealed only two flights in the PA-34, one on July 20, 1987, and the second on September 14, 1987, both 0.7 hours in duration. The Operator was unable to determine through Company records, whether pilot Smith had flown the PA-34 during the March 1992 through July 1993 time frame prior to the accident flight.

The pilot's wife was interviewed and reported that pilot Smith departed for Flightcraft on the morning of the accident shortly before 0700 hours, and that he was normally home by 1800 to 1830 hours. She indicated that he seemed well rested upon his departure for work on the morning of the accident. She also indicated that it was not uncommon for her husband to overfly their residence as he returned from a flight (refer to statement of Elizabeth Smith).


The owner of N8472C reported that he turned the aircraft over to Flightcraft at the Portland International Airport to have some minor discrepancies corrected. The discrepancies were reported as an oscillation in the turn coordinator and left engine roughness believed to be related to the left magnetos when operating above 12,500 feet. The functional check (accident) flight was being conducted subsequent to this corrective maintenance.

The owner also reported that, to his knowledge, the last time the aircraft had been fueled was prior to departure on the return leg of a trip to Montana and that approximately 2.5 hours of the total 5.0 hours of fuel had been consumed on the return leg. It was not determined whether the aircraft was fueled at any time after its return to Portland and prior to the accident flight.


Winds at Portland International Airport at 1450 hours PDT were reported as 020 degrees magnetic at 4 knots. Winds at the Troutdale airport 15 nautical miles south at 1446 were reported as calm.


The aircraft impacted the ground at the northwest edge of the pilot's residential property. The terrain at the impact site was relatively flat and the elevation was approximately 680 feet MSL. The latitude and longitude of the ground impact site was 45 degrees 47.6 minutes North and 122 degrees 26.1 minutes West respectively. The site was approximately 5 nautical miles northeast of Battleground, Washington, and 14 nautical miles north of the Portland International Airport.

The first evidence of ground impact was a narrow, shallow scar along a 306/126 degrees magnetic bearing line. A set of two power lines (one above the other) was observed northwest of this scar and was oriented along the east edge of a single lane, asphalt road. The power lines were oriented along a 085/265 degrees magnetic bearing line. The lower wire had been severed and repaired, with the patch located along the 306 degrees bearing line and at an elevation of approximately 27 feet above the ground scar site. The higher wire, which was approximately 35 feet above the ground scar site, was undamaged. A single tall conifer tree, with its upper trunk separated, was observed northwest of the ground scar along the 306 degree bearing line and estimated to be approximately 500 feet distant. The point where the top of the tree had separated was estimated to be 110 feet above the ground scar, or 790 feet MSL (refer to DIAGRAM I and Photograph 01).

The ground scar was observed to progress into a broad area of disturbed soil covered with fragments of broken, clear plexiglass and white paint chips. Similar, smaller areas of soil disruption, excluding the plexiglass fragments, were observed on the left and right sides of this broad area. The main portion of the aircraft was observed to have come to rest at a location 335 feet beyond the beginning of the narrow ground scar and at the southeast terminus of the 126 degree bearing line. A pickup truck located along the south side of the wreckage distribution line was observed to have sustained impact damage along its right, rear quarter. The aircraft's left engine was observed detached from the wing and lying on the ground 82 feet beyond the initial ground scar with a single free propeller blade lying on the ground 19 feet northwest of the engine (refer to DIAGRAM I and photograph 02).

All major components of the aircraft, with the exception of the outboard left wing and aileron sections were observed along the 335 foot wreckage distribution path (refer to photograph 03). The two previously described smaller areas of soil disruption flanking the area of plexiglass fragments were observed to be oriented along a 270/090 degree magnetic bearing line (refer to photograph 04). The northern area was associated with the right engine ground impact and the southern area was associated with the left engine impact as per witness observations that the aircraft was inverted upon ground impact. Preceding each of these engine impact areas was a series of slash marks/gouges in the soil. The distance between the observed slash marks is documented on DIAGRAM II.

The outboard section of the left wing including its aileron was observed slightly south of the 306 degree bearing line and west of the single lane asphalt road depicted on DIAGRAM I. A major impact depression along its leading edge was observed, as well as a split at a production seam along the leading edge. The outboard section of wing, including the plastic tip and red navigation lens, was observed to be separated along the chord line axis, and the aileron control cables were observed to be separated in a manner consistent with tensile overload (refer to photographs 05 and 06).

The remainder of the aircraft, with the exception of the propeller blades (and previously noted left engine), the left wing and landing gear, and the vertical stabilizer were observed at the aircraft's final resting place (refer to photograph 07). Impact marks along the right side of the fuselage, at the trailing edge, root area of the wing were observed to be consistent with a flaps retracted position. The right flap was observed in its retracted position at the site. There was no observed evidence of any control cable separation other than those characteristic of instantaneous overload.

The left wing and flap, exclusive of the previously described wingtip section, was observed entangled in a wire mesh fence and brush approximately 188 feet beyond the initial ground scar and slightly north of the wreckage track (refer to photograph 08). The second and third, free propeller blades were located in the same area (refer to DIAGRAM I).

The right wing, flap and aileron were observed still partially attached to the remains of the airframe at the aircraft's final resting place. The right landing gear, like the left gear, had separated at the top of its strut (refer to photograph 09). The vertical stabilizer, including the rudder and trim tab, were observed in brush the same distance from the initial ground scar as the left wing but situated on the south side of the wreckage track. The upper leading edge of the vertical stabilizer displayed aftward compressive deformation becoming increasingly more severe approaching the top of the stabilizer. Additionally, the deicing boot along the leading edge was observed to have substantial dirt and mud adhesion along its upper surface (refer to photograph 10 and 11).

The right engine, which remained partially attached to its wing, was missing its cowling, and the entire propeller and hub assembly was observed to have separated (refer to photograph 12). The pitch change mechanism was observed to be broken into several pieces, all lying on the ground in the vicinity of the left wing. The previously documented left engine was observed to have retained its hub assembly and a single propeller blade (refer to photograph 13). The entire horizontal stabilator assembly remained partially attached to the empennage and the trim tab was observed to be continuous from end to end. The left side of the stabilator displayed an aftward impact deformation along its leading edge (refer to photographs 14 and 15).

The first, second and third of the three free propeller blades (refer to DIAGRAM I) were observed to display blade twist and chordwise scratching (refer to photographs 16 through 18). The remaining two propeller blades, which were not located during the on site investigation, were subsequently found during the wreckage recovery subsequent to the wreckage release. The salvage crew reported that these two blades displayed deformation and scratches consistent with the first three blades.


Post mortem examination of Pilot Smith was conducted by Archie Hamilton, M.D., at the facilities of the Clark County Medical Examiner's Office, 3400 Main Street, Vancouver, WA 98660, on July 16, 1993. There was no reported evidence of any pre-impact impairment and the cause of death was attributed to the aircraft accident. Toxicological evaluation of fluid samples from pilot Smith was conducted by the FAA's Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The results of all tests were negative (refer to attached Toxicology Report).


On site examination was conducted during the day of July 16, 1994. The aircraft was released verbally to Aircraft Specialty, Inc., and recovery was begun immediately following the on site investigation. Formal wreckage release was issued to Rosemurgy & Company on July 23, 1993, (refer to attached NTSB Form 6120.15). All three flight logs and associated paperwork provided to the Investigator in Charge was returned via certified mail to Mrs. Elizabeth Smith on January 18, 1994. The aircraft's emergency locator transmitter (ELT), which was retained for examination, was returned to the aircraft owner through Mr. Keith Nielsen of the Pilot & Navigator Company, Inc., on January 21, 1994.

Engine RPM (revolutions per minute) may be calculated when ground speed via the following equation*:

(GS x gear ratio x 101.3)/N x d

where: GS = ground speed N = number of propeller blades d = distance between propeller slash marks (feet) NOTE: The propeller gear ratio for N8742C was 1:1

Utilizing the 200 knot speed from the last radar target and the average distance (d) for each engine's propeller slash marks from DIAGRAM II, the engine RPM for both left and right engines was calculated as follows:

LEFT: (200 x 1 x 101.3)/(3 x 3.056) = 2210 RPM

RIGHT: (200 x 1 x 101.3)/(3 x 2.333) = 2895 RPM

*Handbook for Aircraft Accident Investigation (NAVAIR 00-80T-67)

NTSB Probable Cause


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