Sunday, April 07, 2013

Cessna 182C, N8721T: Accident occurred April 06, 2013 in McCone County, Montana

NTSB Identification: WPR13FA183
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, April 06, 2013 in Circle, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/12/2015
Aircraft: CESSNA 182C, registration: N8721T
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot departed the private airstrip in visual flight rules conditions and proceeded south for 27 miles toward a small town. While near the town, he made a mobile phone call to a family member and reported that there was fog near the river (along his route of flight) but that it was clear on the other side. The mobile phone connection then dropped, and the pilot made no further communications. The airplane wreckage was located 22 miles south of the town where the pilot made the phone call. 

Examination of the airplane wreckage revealed damage and ground scars consistent with a high-energy vertical impact, and no evidence of preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures was found that would have precluded normal operation. The local meteorological observations and satellite imagery indicated that the airplane likely encountered instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), low clouds, and restricted visibility throughout the area about the time of the accident. The pilot had recently received his private pilot certificate, had accumulated 93 hours of total flight time, and did not hold an airplane instrument rating. The IMC combined with the pilot’s lack of instrument flight experience likely led to his becoming spatially disoriented, which resulted in the loss of airplane control.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain airplane control as a result of spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to continue flight into low visibility conditions. 


On April 6, 2013, about 1045 mountain daylight time (MDT), a Cessna 182C, N8721T, collided with terrain 27 miles northwest of Circle, Montana. The private pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to Prarie Sky Inc, and was operated by the private pilot as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91, personal flight. The airplane departed from a ranch airstrip located approximately 10 miles east of Lustre, Montana, about 1030, in visual meteorological conditions, and was destined for a private airstrip in Acton, Montana.

The pilot told his wife over the phone before he took off that it was a foggy morning but the fog was lifting, visibility had increased to 5 miles, and the weather was supposed to get better in the south. The pilot departed the private ranch air strip about 1030. At 1045, while near Wolf Point, Montanan, he made an airborne mobile phone call to his wife. Just before the mobile connection was dropped he told her that there was fog "just over the river" but it was clear on the other side. 

At 1430, concerned family members reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the airplane had never arrived at its intended destination of Acton, Montana. About 1830, the wreckage was located 27 miles northwest of Circle. There were no witnesses to the accident, and no reports of a distress call. Initial examination of the airplane wreckage revealed damage and ground scars consistent with a high energy vertical impact.


The pilot, age 38, held a private pilot certificate for airplane single engine land issued February 8, 2013, and a third-class medical certificate issued January 21, 2013, with no limitations. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had 93 hours of total flight time, and 27.5 hours in the accident airplane make and model. A flight review was completed on January 25, 2013, and high performance endorsement entered on February 16, 2013. The pilot did not hold an airplane instrument rating.


The four-seat, high-wing, fixed landing gear airplane, serial number 52621, was manufactured in 1960. It was powered by a Continental Motors O-470-L(9)F, 230-hp engine equipped with a two blade McCauley constant speed propeller, model 2A34C203-C. A review of maintenance records showed that the most recent annual inspection was dated June 28, 2012, at a total aircraft time of 7,523.4 hours, and tach time of 100.4, and the engine time since major overhaul (TSMO) was 994.4 hours. The tach reading observed during the wreckage examination was 130.9. At the time of the accident the total airframe time was 7,553.9 hours, and the engine TSMO was 1,024.9 hours.


Synoptic conditions: The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 0900 MDT on April 6, 2013, depicted a low pressure system over western Montana at 1007-hectopascals (hPa) with a stationary front extending southeastward across eastern Montana and into the Dakota's. The accident site was located immediately north of the frontal boundary, with a weak pressure gradient area over the area. The station models north and east of the front depicted northerly winds at 10 knots or less, with temperatures in the mid to upper 30's degrees Fahrenheit (F), with temperature-dew point temperatures of 4° or less. South and west of the stationary front winds were from the west, visibility unobstructed, with temperatures in the mid to upper 40's.

An Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) located at L.M. Clayton Airport (KOLF), Wolf Point, Montana, elevation of 1,989 feet mean sea level (msl), and a magnetic variation of 9° E, reported the following conditions: Wolf Point automated special weather observation at 1028 MDT, wind from 350° at 5 knots, ceiling was overcast at 1,500 feet above ground level (agl), temperature 3° Celsius (C), dew point -1° C, altimeter 29.83 inches of mercury (inHg).

Wokal Field/Glasgow International Airport (KGGW), Glasgow, Montana, was located 42 miles west of KOLF at an elevation of 2,296 feet, and also had an ASOS and reported the following conditions:

0853 Instrument flight rules (IFR), wind from 010 degrees at 4 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, overcast at 700 feet agl, temperature 03C, dew point 02C, altimeter 29.81 inHg

1053, IFR, wind from 020 degrees at 3 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, overcast at 700 feet agl, temperature 04C, dew point 02C, altimeter 29.82 inHg.

1153, IFR, wind from 280 degrees at 3 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, overcast at 900 feet agl, temperature 04C, dew point 02C, altimeter 29.82 inHg

Mesowest Data: An unofficial observation from a citizen weather observation program was obtained. An observation from Circle (D0807) located at 47.6012° N, 105.9653° W, or approximately 6 miles south of the accident site provided the following information at 0958 MDT: wind from the north at 5 knots, temperature 37° F, dew point 35.2° F, relative humidity 93 percent, and a sea level pressure 29.77 inHg. The close temperature-dew point spread and high relative humidity implied low visibility and/or cloud cover over the area.

Sounding: The closest sounding was from Glasgow. The 0600 MDT sounding depicted a surface based temperature inversion and another immediately above it to approximately 4,000 feet. The sounding indicated a relative humidity greater than 80 percent from the surface to 4,000 feet and supported low stratiform type clouds. The freezing level was identified at 4,900 feet agl or 7,200 feet msl. The wind profile indicated light surface wind, which increased above the temperature inversions to the west-northwest at 20 knots and greater. The mean 0 to 6 kilometer (18,000 feet) wind was from 302° at 25 knots. The wind profile supported the later development of mountain wave activity above 6,000 feet.

NWS In-Flight Weather Advisories: The following AIRMET was current over the area:
AIRMET, IFR, Montana, from 70 miles south of Swift Current, Canada (YYN), to 50 miles NNW Williston, ND (KISN) to 60 miles SSW Williston, ND (KISN) to 70 miles SW Glasgow (KGGW), to 70 south of Swift Current (YYN), ceiling below 1,000 feet agl, visibility below 3 statute miles and mist. Conditions end between 1200 and 1500. 

The observations and satellite imagery supports visual flight rules (VFR) flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) due to low clouds and restricted visibility. The NWS had an AIRMET current for IFR conditions with conditions improving between 1200 to 1500 MDT.


The wreckage was located on a gently sloped area of undisturbed prairie grass. Wreckage debris were spread along a 300-degree magnetic bearing line originating from the main wreckage area and extending out 141 feet. The debris along this line consisted of cockpit overhead structure, left and right wing skins, and portions of wing main spar. The cabin and fuselage structure were completely compressed into itself, and the tail remained the only airframe structure extending above the ground. The engine was embedded vertically in to the Montana gumbo clay soil all the way to the firewall, so that only the firewall wrapped accessory section was all that was identifiable above ground. 

All airplane components were located within the accident site. Wing skins from both the left and right wings in addition to spar sections were distributed along the 300-degree magnetic bearing line from the main wreckage, consistent with the direction of travel. The leading edges of both the left and right wings were crushed accordion style. The leading edge damage and the wing skin separation were consistent with the effects of hydraulic deformation of the fuel tanks and overload. All flight control cables were secured at their respective bell crank attach points. Control cables had been cut at multiple locations by first responders. Both ailerons were attached to their respective wing structure; both flaps were attached to their tracks; both elevators were attached to the horizontal stabilizer; and the rudder was attached to the vertical stabilizer. The elevator trim cables were pulled off their sprockets, resulting in unreliable elevator trim measurements.

A Garmin GPSMAP 396 unit was recovered from the wreckage and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Laboratory for examination. Track log data dated from May 5, 2102, to March 31, 2013, was recovered from the unit. No track log data was identified correlating with the date of the accident. The GPS Factual Report is available in the official docket of this investigation.

On May 15, 2013, the engine was examined under the supervision of an FAA inspector. The engine was a rebuilt and zero timed by Teledyne Continental Motors on September 18, 1996. The last annual inspection was completed on June 28, 2012, at an engine time of 994.0 hours since rebuilt. The propeller governor and oil cooler were fractured free of the engine and not observed. The magnetos were fractured from their mount pads, but remained attached via the ignition harness. The engine and engine accessories exhibited impact damage. The inspection did not reveal any abnormalities that would have prevented normal operation and production of power.

Overall, the wreckage examination did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane or engine.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot April 9, 2013, by Forensic Medicine and Pathology, PLLC, Billings, Montana, as requested by the McCone County Sheriff. The cause of death was determined to be by severe acute blunt trauma. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Forensic Toxicology Research Team CAMI performed toxicology on the specimens from the pilot with negative results for carbon monoxide, ethanol, or selected drugs. Testing for cyanide was not performed.


Spatial Disorientation

Inadvertent VFR flight into IMC is discussed in the Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A).

"A VFR pilot is in IMC conditions anytime he or she is unable to maintain airplane attitude control by reference to the natural horizon, regardless of the circumstances or the prevailing weather conditions. Additionally, the VFR pilot is, in effect, in IMC anytime he or she is inadvertently, or intentionally for an indeterminate period of time, unable to navigate or establish geographical position by visual reference to landmarks on the surface. These situations must be accepted by the pilot involved as a genuine emergency, requiring appropriate action.

The pilot must understand that unless he or she is trained, qualified, and current in the control of an airplane solely by reference to flight instruments, he or she will be unable to do so for any length of time. Many hours of VFR flying using the attitude indicator as a reference for airplane control may lull a pilot into a false sense of security based on an overestimation of his or her personal ability to control the airplane solely by instrument reference. In VFR conditions, even though the pilot thinks he or she is controlling the airplane by instrument reference, the pilot also receives an overview of the natural horizon and may subconsciously rely on it more than the cockpit attitude indicator. If the natural horizon were to suddenly disappear, the untrained instrument pilot would be subject to vertigo, spatial disorientation, and inevitable control loss."

Darin Ray Brown

Obituary: Darin Ray Brown, age 38, of Acton, MT.  

July 2, 1974 – April 6, 2013
Darin Ray Brown, 38, of Acton, MT went to be with his Lord and Savior on Saturday April 6, 2013 as he was flying home from the Wolf Point farm.  He was born on July 2, 1974 to Dennis and Evonne Brown in Wolf Point.

Darin grew up on the family farm as the second of three boys and lived life with the motto of working hard and playing just as hard.  He loved to build and create which resulted in many learning experiences, many of which ended him up in the ER and on the prayer chain.  Darin loved farm life, riding motorcycles, driving fast, basketball and especially the cattle and animals.  He fell in love with flying and at age 16, earned his pilot’s license.  In spite of his adventuresome spirit, he had a tender heart especially towards the Lord and asked Jesus to take away his sins at the age of four.

He graduated from Lustre Christian High School in 1992 as valedictorian and went on to Montana State where he majored in Ag Tech. and minored in computers.  At college, he fell in love with his future farm girl, Sarah Kelm, and they were married on Nov. 23, 1996.  After graduation, he took her home to continue farming with his brothers and dad, with his main area being cattle. There, he started the bull sales for Brown Angus Ranch.   Darin was especially skilled in mechanics, welding, building, family relations and jobs that were high and dangerous. In 2007, Darin left the cattle and made the transition to farming in Acton, MT where he enjoyed more time working along side his dad.

Darin was blessed with his five kids and loved to include them in his everyday work, especially working with and training his boys in farm responsibilities and in being young men of Godly character.  Darin was always ready for wrestling with his kids, games, playing ball and snuggling with his girls.  He loved reading, days on the lake skiing, visiting with friends, skiing, a good debate and anything competitive.  Sarah and his kids were blessed first hand by his integrity, deep love for them and his joy in life.

Read more:

The pilot of a small plane was killed when the aircraft crashed Saturday in the northern part of McCone County on private land.

In a Sunday news release, the Roosevelt County Sheriff's Office confirmed the death of Darin Ray Brown, 38. It said Brown did not survive the crash of his Cessna 182.

Officials said Saturday that Brown departed Brown Farms from a rural airstrip near Wolf Point at 10:30 a.m. and was last heard from between 10:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. when he talked to his wife while flying over Wolf Point.

Brown was expected to arrive at his destination at a farm near Acton in Yellowstone County at about 1:30 p.m., officials said. He was reported missing at 2:45 p.m.

Brown’s flight plan indicated that he intended to fly toward Circle, then west to Coakley Road near Acton, 15 miles northwest of Billings.

The McCone County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the crash but did not provide more details of the crash on Sunday morning.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, registration is pending for the fixed wing, single-engine Cessna at an address in Acton. The plane's owner is not listed due to the pending registration.

McCone County Sheriff Davis Harris and sheriff's deputies, the Redwater Valley Ambulance Service and the McCone County Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene of the crash 

UPDATE: The McCone County Sheriff's Office says it is responding to reports of a crashed plane in the county. They could not release any further information at this time.

BILLINGS-The Roosevelt County Sheriff's Office is seeking the assistance of the public in locating a missing airplane.

The plane, piloted by 38-year-old Darin Ray Brown, took off from a rural airstrip northwest of Wolf Point on Saturday morning for a planned trip to Yellowstone County, but did not reach its destination.

According to the Roosevelt County Sheriff's office, a flight plan indicated that Brown intended to fly towards Circle, Montana then west to a farm near Acton about 15 miles northwest of Billings.

The sheriff's office says Brown took off from Brown Farms at 10:30 a.m. and was last heard from between 10:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. when he talked to his wife in Acton while flying over Wolf Point.

The plane is described as being a blue Cessna 182 with a white tail. The tail number of the airplane is N8721T.

The plane was officially reported as missing shortly before 3 p.m.. After the report was taken, a search for the plane and Brown began by air.

Brown is described as being 5'10", 180 lbs. with brown hair and blue eyes.

Residents in the area of the indicated flight plan are asked to check their property for the plane and Brown.

If you do happen to find the plane or Brown, have information regarding the plane's whereabouts or remember seeing the plane earlier in the day you are asked to call Roosevelt County Sheriff's Office Deputy Clay McGeshick at 406-652-6240.

1 comment:

  1. This was my brother in law... He was a great husband and father.see you soon