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N4731D accident description

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Crash location 45.738333°N, 91.855556°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 Shell Lake, WI
45.739393°N, 91.925454°W
3.4 miles away

Tail number N4731D
Accident date 13 Aug 2002
Aircraft type Cessna 172N
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 13, 2002, at 2333 central daylight time, a Cessna 172N, N4731D, piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed when it impacted into a cornfield near Shell Lake, Wisconsin. The 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight was operating in night visual meteorological conditions without a flight plan. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated from the St. Cloud Regional Airport (STC), St. Cloud, Minnesota, and was en route to the Price County Airport (PBH), Phillips, Wisconsin. The exact departure time is not known.


The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane multiengine land, instrument airplane, and airplane single land ratings. The certificate, issued on June 27, 2002, listed private pilot privileges for single engine land airplanes. The pilot held a first class medical certificate with no restrictions. The medical certificate was issued on December 6, 2000.

An "Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application", that the pilot submitted in relation to a flight test for a certified flight instructor certificate, was reviewed. According to the application, the pilot had accumulated a total of 236 flight hours, 178 hours instruction received, 51 hours solo, 174 hours as pilot in command (PIC), 41 hours of cross country instruction received, 92 hours of cross country experience, 61 hours of instrument flight experience, 10 hours of night instruction received, 41 night take-off/landings, 11 hours of night PIC experience, and 23 night take-off/landings as PIC. The application was dated July 22, 2002.


The airplane was a single-engine Cessna 172N, serial number 17272342. A Lycoming O-320-H2AD engine, serial number RL-4840-76, powered the airplane. The engine was rated at 160 horsepower. According to the aircraft maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was performed on April 11, 2002 at a recording tachometer time of 4,727 hours. The maintenance records indicate that the engine was overhauled on January 10, 2002, and was installed on the accident airplane on April 11, 2002.


The weather reporting station located at the Rice Lake Regional Airport (RPD), Rice lake, Wisconsin, recorded the weather at 2341 as: Sky condition - Clear; Visibility - 7 statute miles; Altimeter setting - 29.85 inches Hg; Temperature - 13 degrees Celsius; Dew point - 13 degrees Celsius; Wind - calm. RPD is located about 20 nautical miles south of the accident site.


The airplane impacted into a cornfield 2.7 nautical miles east of the Shell Lake Municipal Airport, Shell Lake, Wisconsin. The initial impact point was determined using a global positioning system receiver as 45 degrees 44.306 minutes North latitude, 91 degrees 51.332 minutes West longitude. The wreckage path was about 250 feet long and oriented in an easterly direction. All of the airplane components were located between the initial impact point and the main wreckage location. The wings were separated from the fuselage at the wing roots. The aft fuselage section was intact with the tail surfaces still attached. The fuselage forward of the tail cone was crushed and destroyed. The engine came to rest beneath the aft fuselage section. Pieces of the right wing tip fairing were found at the beginning of the wreckage path. The right wing came to rest about 145 feet from the initial impact point. The left wing came to rest next to the main wreckage.

A post accident examination of the airplane was conducted. Control system continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the tail surfaces. The aileron control system was examined and all control cable breaks exhibited signatures consistent with overload failure. The right wing fuel tank was breached and had an area below the height of the breach that was not compromised. No fuel was found within the un-compromised area of the right tank. The left wing came to rest inverted. The fuel filler cap was in place and no evidence of a fuel leaking from the cap was observed. About 1 gallon of fuel was drained from the left fuel tank. The engine was examined and thumb compression, valve train continuity, and accessory gear continuity was confirmed. The Bendix dual magneto was examined. The magneto was found along the wreckage path and was separated from the engine. The magneto was turned by hand and spark was observed from one lead on each half of the unit. The magneto was disassembled and the plastic distributor drive gears were found to have broken gear teeth. Dirt and debris was found impacted into the drive end of the magneto. The spark plugs were examined and no abnormal combustion signatures were found. The carburetor was disassembled and no fuel was found in the float chamber. About 1/4 teaspoon of fuel was observed in the accelerator pump cavity. No anomalies with respect to the airplane, engine, or systems were found that could be determined to have existed prior to impact.


An autopsy was performed by the Sacred Heart Hospital Pathology Department, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on August 14, 2002.

A Final Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report listed negative results for all tests performed.


The pilot rented the accident airplane so that he could fly from PBH to STC where he rented a Beech model 76 airplane, N6703L. The pilot then flew N6703L from STC to the St. Paul Downtown Airport/Holman Field (STP), St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was tested for a Certified Flight Instructor certificate. According to the examiners report, the test consisted of 2.8 hours of ground-testing and 1.5 hours of flight-testing. The examiner issued a disapproval notice to the pilot in relation to the test. Subsequent to the flight test, the pilot returned N6703L to STC. The pilot then boarded the accident airplane for the return flight to PBH.

The distances from PBH to STC and from STC to STP are 154 nautical miles and 56 nautical miles respectively. The accident site was determined to be 93 nautical miles from STC.

During the examination of the aircraft wreckage, a rental logbook was found. The logbook showed that the airplane was last fueled on August 9, 2002. There were two entries after the recorded fueling. The first entry after the refueling entry listed beginning recording tachometer and recording hour-meter times of 4807.1 and 1025.7 respectively. During the examination of the wreckage, the recording tachometer and recording hour-meter times were 4811.9 and 1031.2 respectively.

The fixed base operators at PBH and STC were contacted regarding fueling of the accident airplane. No records were found regarding fueling of the accident airplane subsequent to the August 9, 2002 fueling record found in the rental logbook.

The airplane was equipped with fuel tanks having a total capacity of 43 gallons, of which 3 gallons was unusable. According to a Cessna 172N Flight Manual, a Cessna 172N equipped with 40 gallons of usable fuel has a sea level fuel endurance, with 45 minutes reserve, of 3.9 hours at 75 percent power, 4.6 hours at 65 percent power, 5.5 hours at 55 percent power, and 6.4 hours at 45 percent power. The flight manual lists a cruise speed, at 8,000 feet and 75 percent power, of 122 knots.


The Federal Aviation Administration, Cessna Aircraft, and Textron Lycoming were parties to the investigation.

The aircraft wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company on August 15, 2002.

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