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N828CE accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Ashland, WI
46.383005°N, 90.733796°W

Tail number N828CE
Accident date 15 Apr 1998
Aircraft type Cessna 180J
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 15, 1998, at 0840 central daylight time (cdt), a Cessna 180J, N828CE, operated by an airline transport pilot, was destroyed when while maneuvering parallel to runway 31 at John F. Kennedy Airport, Ashland, Wisconsin, the airplane struck some trees. The airplane subsequently departed controlled flight and struck the terrain. A post-crash fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under 14 CFR Part 91. There was no flight plan on file. The pilot was fatally injured. The local flight originated at Ashland, Wisconsin, at 0812 cdt.

A witness, whose house was located on a road northeast of the final approach path for runway 31, noticed a "real loud aircraft sound." She went outside to feed her horses and heard the airplane again. She thought that it might be doing touch-and-go landings. The witness said she saw the airplane from her deck. The airplane was southwest of her house, turning from a southeasterly heading, through northeast, and then west. The witness said she could see the top of the airplane in the beginning of the turn. She said that the airplane's turn was completed west of her house. The witness said that a few seconds after she went into her house, she heard a "bang" like something hitting cement, and an echo coming from the northeast. The witness thought the sound came from a neighbor's house, but realized she no longer heard the airplane.

Another witness, whose house was southeast of the airport, said that he was outside at 0820 cdt when he heard an airplane which he characterized as being "loud for a small plane, extra loud." The witness said that he saw the airplane east of his house. It was "high and loud for its altitude." The witness said that he heard the airplane at least once, and possibly more times. The witness felt that the airplane was not trying to land, but just going around in circles.

A corporate pilot for the Brettings Manufacturing Company of Ashland, Wisconsin, was at his hangar on the airport and saw the pilot taxi out just after 0800 cdt. The witness said that the winds at that time favored runway 31. He did not see the pilot takeoff. Later, the witness was in the hangar reception area when he heard the pilot call the Brettings hangar from his airplane and asked, "Is the coffee on?" The witness picked up the microphone and answered, "Who are you asking?" The pilot responded, "You." The witness told the pilot that the coffee was on. The pilot responded by saying, "Well then, I'll come in." The next thing the witness recalled was a loud sound of an airplane engine and then the sound of things breaking. The witness ran outside of the hangar and saw the airplane going away from him in a level, gradual climb. The airplane began a left turn and roll. The airplane reached the top of its climb and then came straight down in a combination of a continual roll and a spin.

The chief pilot for Brettings Manufacturing said that he arrived at the Brettings hangar at, or just after 0800 cdt. He saw the pilot taxiing. The chief pilot turned on the radio in the hangar reception area and spoke with the pilot. The chief pilot said that he was in the hangar and could not see the pilot's airplane, but he could hear the pilot performing touch-and-go landings, and heard him announcing on the radio for runway 31. The chief pilot said that he then heard a pass followed by an impact which he characterized as sounding like metal crunching. He went to the door and saw the airplane go up and then down, heard the impact with the ground, and saw smoke.

The director of maintenance for Brettings Manufacturing was in the hangar doing work on the company's Cessna Citation III jet, when he heard the airplane flying. He wasn't sure of the exact time, but felt that the airplane had been up for more than one- half hour. The director of maintenance said that he heard several passes of some kind, possibly touch-and-go landings. He then heard a high-speed pass, right by the hangar. He characterized the sound as "scary," and likened it to a high- speed airshow pass. He said that he feared that airplane might hit the Brettings hangar. The director of maintenance got up to go see the airplane. A moment later, he heard an impact noise, like an aluminum can being crushed. When he got to the window, he saw the airplane in a left bank, heading southward at about 300 feet above ground level (agl). The airplane nosed over and hit the ground. He recalled hearing the impact.


The pilot held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, and was employed by Northwest Airlines as a DC-9 Captain. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman records and Northwest Airlines, the pilot had approximately 11,725 total flight hours. No personal pilot logbook was located.

Personal fuel records showed that the pilot logged 30.3 hours in the airplane, since June 27, 1997. The pilot's last entry indicated that he flew the airplane locally on January 11, 1998.


The airplane was owned by the pilot and his wife, and used for pleasure.

The airplane was manufactured in 1972. The airplane was originally registered as N9785G. On January 22, 1990, the airplane was purchased and delivered to Canada. The airplane was operated for 11 months under the Canadian registration letters C-FHHV. The airplane was purchased by the owner previous to the pilot, and delivered to the United States on November 7, 1991. A new registration certificate, dated October 29, 1991, was issued, establishing the airplane as N828CE.

According to a friend and former corporate pilot associate, the pilot purchased the airplane in the summer of 1997. He said that when the pilot purchased the airplane, it had floats on it. The pilot kept the airplane at a family-owned marina, and flew it through the fall. The friend said that the pilot, who was also an airframe and powerplant mechanic, worked on the airplane all winter. "He probably had the whole thing [the airplane] apart and put back together." The friend said that the pilot had taken one of the cylinders off of the engine and had installed new control yokes.

A set of aircraft logbooks were recovered from the pilot's hangar at the John F. Kennedy Airport. The last entry made in the airframe logbook was the airplane's annual inspection on November 30, 1996. The airframe time recorded at the time of the annual inspection was 2,143.0 hours. No other aircraft, engine, or propeller logbooks were found.


The NTSB on scene investigation began on April 15, 1998, at 2015 cdt.

The accident site was confined to two areas on the John F. Kennedy Airport.

The first area was located at the east end of the airport's main ramp, on the airport's northeast side. The tops of three water birch trees, located 75 feet from the southeast edge of an asphalt ramp, were sheared off through the trunks, approximately 25 feet up from their bases. The tree trunks were between 8 and 12 inches in diameter. The three trees were part of a small group of trees located approximately 640 feet northeast of runway 31. Several pieces of sheared tree limbs and branches fanned outward from the trees for approximately 250 feet. The pieces fell within a 40-degree arc, along a 240-degree magnetic heading, onto the ramp and into the grassy infield, between the ramp and runway 31.

The outboard 4 feet of the airplane's left wing was located on the ramp, approximately 130 feet from the trees on a 257-degree magnetic heading. The wing section was crushed inward and torn in a jagged "z"-shaped pattern, beginning at the leading edge, 46 inches inboard from the wingtip, and running aft to the trailing edge along the chordline. The left aileron was broken off. A 5-inch long, triangle-shaped piece of the left aileron skin remained attached at the outboard hinge.

A 14-inch long piece of the left aileron was located in the grassy infield, approximately 180 feet from the trees on a 190- degree magnetic heading. The metal was torn and twisted. Several small pieces of tree branches rested nearby the aileron piece.

The remainder of the airplane's left aileron was located on the ramp, approximately 575 feet from the trees on a 303-degree magnetic heading. The aileron was broken at the hinges. The outboard hinge and some metal skin were missing.

The second area, which contained the airplane's main wreckage, was located in a grassy field, 363 feet west-northwest of runway 20, approximately 1,700 feet from the runway's approach end. A triangular-shaped, burned grass area, 159 feet wide and 105 feet long surrounded the main wreckage. The main wreckage consisted of the inboard two-thirds of the airplane's left wing, the airplane's right wing, the engine, propeller, and remains of the airplane's fuselage, cabin, and empennage. The airplane was oriented on a 340-degree magnetic heading.

The engine and propeller rested in a 40-inch wide, 52-inch long, and 36-inch deep, rectangular-shaped hole, at the front of the wreckage. The penetration angle of the hole was approximately 72-degrees. The engine was broken off at the mounts. The engine mounts were bent upward, broken, and crushed aft into the airplane's firewall. The firewall was bent forward and sustained charring and melting. The propeller remained attached to the engine. Both propeller blades rotated freely in the hub rings. Both propeller blades showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and curling at the tips. The spinner was crushed aft and inward to the flange conforming to the shape of the propeller cylinder and hub.

The airplane's main landing gear legs and wing struts were embedded in the ground. The left wing strut was broken at the base of the mount proceeding into the underside of the wing. The right wing strut remained attached to the right wing. It was bent 40-degrees inward, approximately 12 inches down from the wing attachment. The main wheels were broken off at the axles. The left main tire was found resting outside of the burn area, approximately 75 feet aft of the main wreckage, on a 175-degree heading from the main wreckage. The right main tire rested 18 feet aft and right of the main wreckage on a 95-degree magnetic heading.

The inboard two-thirds of the airplane's left wing showed leading edge crush of approximately 85-degrees along its entire length. The forward 15-inches of the left wing's upper and lower wing skin were buckled outward and broken at several locations. The bladder fuel tank was broken open and consumed by fire. The entire surviving wing showed charring and melting. The wing skin and main spar at the fractured edge were bent aft, twisted downward, charred and melted. The left wing flap was extended and melted. Control cables and bell cranks to the left aileron remained intact. Flight control continuity to the left aileron was confirmed.

The right wing showed leading edge crush of approximately 80- degrees from the longitudinal axis, along its entire length. The inboard 6 feet of the upper wing skin was charred and melted by fire. The forward 12 to 18 inches of the right wing's upper and lower wing skin were buckled outward and broken along several longitudinal rivet lines. The wing surfaces aft of the buckled skin were twisted downward. The bladder fuel tank was broken open and consumed. The right flap was extended and the inboard half of the surface was charred. The outboard 24 inches of the trailing edge of the flap was consumed. The right aileron was buckled at mid-span, charred, and melted. Flight control continuity to the right aileron was confirmed. The right wing tip had broken off along the longitudinal rivet line, and was charred.

The airplane's cabin, to include the seats, instrument panel, interior walls, cabin and baggage doors, and exterior walls, was charred and melted. Much of the material which made up the components was consumed by fire. The plexiglass windscreen was broken out and fractured into numerous pieces. Several pieces of the windscreen were found laying on the ground forward of the wreckage. Other pieces were observed in the hole with the engine and propeller.

The melted remains of the airplane's fuselage, aft of the cabin, and the empennage, rested upright, 40-degrees left of the airplane's longitudinal reference line. Flight control continuity to the airplane's elevator and rudder were confirmed.

Examination of the engine revealed no pre-impact anomalies. Examination of the engine controls and other surviving airplane systems revealed no anomalies.


An autopsy of the pilot was conducted by the Ramsey County, Minnesota, Medical Examiner on April 15, 1998, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The results of FAA toxicology testing of specimens from the pilot were negative for all tests conducted.


At 0840 cdt, the Ashland Fire Department responded to a 911 emergency call of a single-engine airplane that crashed at the airport. On arrival at the scene, at 0844 cdt, responding units found the airplane engulfed in fire. A 150-foot radius area of surrounding grassland was also on fire. By 0856 cdt, Ashland fire fighters had the fire under control.


Parties to the investigation were the Federal Aviation Administration Flight Standards District Office, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas.

All of the airplane wreckage was released and returned to the Airport Management at John F. Kennedy Airport, Ashland, Wisconsin.

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