Plane crash map Find crash sites, wreckage and more

N65632 accident description

Go to the West Virginia map...
Go to the West Virginia list...
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Summersville, WV
38.281220°N, 80.852598°W

Tail number N65632
Accident date 11 Aug 1996
Aircraft type Cessna 172P
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On August 11, 1996, at 1150 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N65632, descended through trees, impacted the ground, and was destroyed by fire during an attempted go around at Gerald L. Rader Field in Summersville, West Virginia. The certificated private pilot and the two passengers sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and a VFR flight plan was filed. The pleasure flight was conducted under 14 CFR 91. The airplane departed Ona Airpark, in Milton, West Virginia at approximately 1000.

One witness explained that he and his wife were standing on the parking ramp at Summersville airport when their attention was first drawn to N65632. He said that he was listening to his hand-held VHF radio when the pilot called Summersville traffic and advised that N65632 intended to land on runway 07. The only runway at Summersville is oriented 04 and 22. The witness reported that he said to his wife, "I've got a bad feeling about this guy, go get the camera."

The witness said the pilot's first approach was "...steep and fast." He said that when the pilot flared for touchdown the airplane "...ballooned up and drifted off the runway." He said the pilot then applied power for a go-around. The witness added, "That first one really scared me, I thought he was going to hit the building [FBO office adjacent to the runway]."

The witness reported that he did not watch the airplane on climb out, crosswind, or on its downwind turn. He said his attention was diverted to an airplane with parachutists aboard that was preparing to depart runway 04 at Summersville. The witness said that N65632 performed a 360 degree turn on the downwind leg for spacing, to allow for the parachutists' airplane to take off.

According to the witness, the pilot of N65632 performed the turn from the downwind leg to the base leg for his second approach "...too steep and too soon ..." and that the turn to final was also "...very steep." When the witness was asked if he could approximate the angle of bank, he stated they were "...steep turns to base and final, greater than 45 degrees." He said the pilot's approach was "...steep and fast..." but that "...he was OK on short final." The witness stated that "...he made three tries to touch down, but he kept ballooning back up. On the third try, he bounced hard but he still had enough room. I said to myself, 'He'll land', but he went around."

The witness reported that "...the crosswind turn was early and steep [with] no climb..."on the go around. He stated that the pilot "...started turn to the left way too soon, maybe 150 feet off of the ground The steeper he got the more altitude he lost. I said to my wife, 'Oh my god! He's too steep! What's he doing?' He turned and just stalled it." He said the airplane then disappeared behind the tree line.

In a subsequent written statement, the witness reported," The engine sounded to us as if he hadn't taken carburetor heat off. It did not sound as if the engine was at full power."

A pilot approaching the airport from the east explained that he heard the pilot of N65632 announce that "...he was downwind for 'runway 7' for Summersville." The witness explained that he was in a clockwise spiraling descent over the Summersville Lake to provide spacing for the jump plane on climb out and N65632 which was established in the traffic pattern at the airport. He stated, "I got a visual on both the skyhawk [N 65632] and the jump plane around 6000 feet. The 172 was on downwind runway 4 (properly announced this time) and the jump plane was ENE of the airport. On my next revolution, I was down to about 4,500 feet. The skyhawk was on final approach as I lost sight going into my last turn. Before I had the airport in sight, I reported that I would be entering 45 degree downwind runway 4. Just as I was leveling my bank, I saw the skyhawk just above the treeline, no more than 50 feet. It entered nose down, it looked like it was just past a vertical attitude." According to the West Virginia State Police, the same witness, " experienced pilot who was flying above the aircraft, [advised] it appeared to go into a basic stall spin, then crashed into the hillside."

Several witnesses in the campgrounds surrounding the airport reported hearing the aircraft flying overhead. One witness said, "I heard the engine running and when it hit the ground the engine quit." Another witness stated "It sounded like it was flying kind of low and it was spitting and sputtering."

A search was initiated and the aircraft was located by coordinated efforts between aircraft above the wreckage and searchers on the ground.

The accident occurred in the hours of daylight, about 38 degrees 14.44 minutes North, 80 degrees 52.13 minutes West.


The pilot was issued an FAA Airman's Third Class Medical Certificate and an FAA Student Pilot Certificate on March 29, 1996.

The pilot was issued an FAA Private Pilot Certificate on July 10,1996, with a rating for single engine land.

The pilot's logbook was not found. An approximation of the pilot's total flight time was made by interviewing the Pilot Examiner who examined the logbook one month prior to the accident, and a conversation with the pilot's flight instructor. The Pilot Examiner reported that at the time of the evaluation, the pilot had logged 61 hours of total time: 55 hours in the Cessna 152, 41 hours of instruction, 20 hours solo, 13 cross country, 12 cross country solo, 1 hour instrument, 8 hours night, and no simulator time. The pilot's flight instructor reported that he gave the pilot his check-out in the Cessna 172 prior to his evaluation and that the pilot had logged approximately 3 hours since receiving his pilot's certificate.


Weather reported 35 miles west of Summersville at Charleston, WV at the time of the accident was variable winds at 4 knots, 10 statute miles of visibility with a scattered cloud layer at 5000 feet. The temperature was 74 degrees, the dew point was 59 degrees, and the altimeter setting was 30.12 '" Hg.


The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on August 12, 1996. The wreckage was located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' property and was oriented on an approximate heading of 120 degrees. The right wing was oriented 210 degrees and the left was oriented 030 degrees. The aircraft descended vertically through the trees and came to rest at the initial point of ground contact. The fuselage, cockpit, cabin area and right wing were destroyed by fire. The leading edge of the left wing and remaining portions of the leading edge of the right wing were crushed aft in compression. The tail cone, vertical fin, and horizontal stabilizers came to rest inverted with rudder and elevators attached. The tail section showed evidence of fire damage.

Two cut tree stumps were found next to the aircraft wreckage. One was approximately 4.5 feet tall and 2.5 inches in diameter. The other was 2.5 feet tall and 1.5 inches in diameter. Five cut logs, 19 inches in length, were found in the wreckage. Two were 2.5 inches in diameter and three were 1.5 inches in diameter. The logs were matched with the corresponding stumps.

The elevation at the impact site was estimated to be 1800 feet mean sea level (MSL). The Summersville Airport is at 1821 feet MSL.

The wing flap position was estimated at 0 degrees. The flap actuator was retracted, corresponding to zero degree wing flap extension. The elevator trim tab actuator was extended 1.38 inches, corresponding to 5 degrees tab up. All flight control surfaces were accounted for at the site and control cable continuity was established to the ailerons, elevator, and rudder.

Seats, seat tracks, and passenger restraints were destroyed by fire.

The engine was partially buried in a nose down attitude oriented approximately 120 degrees. The propeller was attached and one blade was visible The engine was covered with debris and exhibited fire damage. The engine was removed from the site and transported to a hanger at the Summersville Airport for examination. When the engine was lifted, oil poured from the sump.

The engine examination was conducted August 8, 1996. The propeller, rocker covers and top spark plugs were removed. The propeller blades were bent, and there were chordwise scratches and gouges on the leading edges of both blades. The rocker covers displayed heat discoloration. The spark plugs displayed no anomalies.

The engine was rotated using a drive adapter attached to the vacuum pump drive. Valve continuity was established and compression was noted on the No. 2 and No. 4 cylinders using the thumb method. The No. 1 and No. 3 cylinders were removed and displayed no anomalies. The valves were undamaged. The valve springs were discolored by heat and could be depressed by hand.

The carburetor was damaged and full of debris. The carburetor airbox was still attached and the carburetor heat valve was in the cold position.

The left magneto was broken at the attachment point and damaged by fire. The right magneto was destroyed by fire.

No discrepancies were found with the engine or airframe.


An autopsy was conducted on the pilot on August 12, 1996, in South Charleston, West Virginia by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of West Virginia,

Toxocological testing was conducted by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute Laboratory on November 5, 1996. The results were negative for alcohol, drugs, and carbon monoxide.


The airplane wreckage was released to the owner August 12, 1996.

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