Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cessna 172M, N4459R: Accident occurred June 27, 2013 in Birdseye, Utah

NTSB Identification: WPR13FA294
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 27, 2013 in Birdseye, UT
Aircraft: CESSNA 172M, registration: N4459R
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On June 27, 2013, about 1020 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 172M, N4459R, was substantially damaged when it struck powerlines and terrain during an attempted emergency landing on a road near Birdseye, Utah. The airplane was owned and operated by IMSAR Aviation, a wholly owned subsidiary of IMSAR, Springville, Utah. The commercial pilot was seriously injured, and the required crewmember received fatal injuries. The radar equipment test flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

According to representatives of IMSAR, the airplane was one of two Cessna 172 airplanes used as test platforms for the development and testing of airborne radar systems. The airplanes were based at Spanish Fork-Springville airport (U77), Springville. IMSAR employed one full-time pilot, and occasionally utilized the services of contract pilots. On the morning of the accident, the IMSAR pilot was operating the other company airplane, and a contract pilot was operating the accident airplane. The mission plan was to fly predetermined tracks and/or orbits at a location about 16 miles south of U77, at an altitude of about 8,000 feet, for several hours.

According to preliminary information from the pilot, about 2 hours after departure, an overheat/smoke/fire event in the cabin was detected, and after an initial attempt to fly to the north (towards U77) to locate a suitable landing location, the pilot opted to land on a north-south road near his current location. He configured the airplane for landing, and set up to land to the south on the road. On short final, the pilot noticed a powerline that crossed the road was in his path, and pulled up in an attempt to overfly it. The airplane struck that wire, and then struck other powerlines and terrain. There was no post impact fire. Passers-by came to the aid of the pilot, and contacted emergency services to notify them of the accident.

The accident site was located about 15 miles south of U77, at an elevation of about 5,500 feet. The airplane was examined on-site by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel on the day of the accident, and then by FAA, NTSB, and Cessna Aircraft Company personnel the day after the accident. Examination revealed that a supplemental electrical system installed to provide power for the radar equipment and associated test equipment had overheated and began to burn. No evidence of overheating or fire was observed on any wiring or electrical components of the airplane itself; thermal damage was confined to the operator-installed electrical system and airplane furnishings (carpet, sidewalls, etc.). The airplane and components were recovered and transported to a secure facility for additional examination.

FAA information indicated that the airplane was manufactured in 1974 as Cessna serial number 17263201, and was equipped with a Lycoming O-320 series engine. The airplane was purchased by IMSAR Aviation in February 2013, and modified for mounting and testing of the radar equipment. IMSAR Aviation utilized the services of an independent FAA mechanic with an inspection authorization rating for some of the modifications. The airplane was registered in the restricted category.

The 0955 automated weather observation at an airport located about 20 miles north of the accident site included variable wind at 3 knots; visibility 15 miles; clear skies; temperature 26 degrees C; dew point 9 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.25 inches of mercury.

 BIRDSEYE -- The two people that were inside a small plane when it went down in Spanish Fork Canyon Thursday morning have been identified. 

Orem resident Nicholas Soter, 66, and Gerald Wilson of South Jordan were conducting Radar Ground Mapping when their plane became distressed, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Soter was piloting the plane and in his attempt to conduct an emergency landing he clipped an electrical line but investigators are unsure if the clipping caused the crash. Soter was transported via medical helicopter to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in critical condition;Wilson died on scene.

According to Lt. Yvette Rice with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office the Cessna 172 crashed just before 10:30 a.m. She said Utah Valley dispatch received a call from the Salt Lake International Airport shortly before the crash saying they had received a call of a plane with a cockpit fire and that the plane was going to attempt to land on SR 89 at mile post 304. Rice said almost simultaneously another call came in from a Price Utah Highway Patrol officer saying someone in the area with a ham radio was reporting a plane crash at milepost 304.1. According to FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer the Cessna crashed after declaring a MAYDAY. Rice said there was no information about what caused the plane to malfunction.

Both the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident, along with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Kenitzer said the NTSB is the lead investigator and that it may take several weeks before a possible cause of the accident can be determined.

SR 89 was closed for several hours while crews landed a medical helicopter and investigated the accidents. The road was open in both directions early Thursday afternoon.

(Donald W. Meyers | The Salt Lake Tribune)
 Utah County Sheriff's Office personnel investigate the crash of a Cessna 172 on U.S. Highway 89 south of Birdseye Thursday, June 27, 2013. Sheriff's Lt. Shawn Chipman said the pilot, who was critically injured in the crash, radioed the Spanish Fork airport that his cabin was filling with smoke and was going to attempt an emergency landing on the road. A passenger in the plane was killed on impact, Chipman said. The crash blocked traffic until 1:20 p.m.

Birdseye, Utah County • One man was killed and another man was in critical condition after a single-engine airplane crashed during an attempted emergency landing late Thursday morning on Highway 89 near the Utah-Sanpete County line. 

Utah County Sheriff’s Lt. Yvette Rice said the crash, about 10:25 a.m., occurred near mile post 304, about 20 miles north of Fairview.

The aircraft appeared to have clipped power lines and flipped, crashing on its back just off the edge of the road on a parcel of farmland near the tiny town of Birdseye. No other vehicles were involved.

Utah Valley emergency dispatchers had been notified by the Spanish Fork Municipal Airport control tower personnel that at 10:25 a.m. the pilot of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk had called in a "May Day," reporting fire in the cockpit. The pilot said he intended to make an emergency landing on the highway.

"Almost simultaneously to that, the Utah Highway Patrol office in Price reported receiving a call from a ‘ham’ radio operator on the scene of a reported plane crash at the same location," Rice said.

UHP troopers and sheriff’s deputies confirmed one dead at the scene and a second man, the pilot, in critical condition. He was flown by helicopter to the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo.

The identities of the men were being withheld Thursday afternoon pending notification of next of kin, but they were confirmed to have taken off earlier Thursday morning from Spanish Fork and had been expected to return there later in the day.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said investigation into the crash of the four-seat aircraft would be jointly conducted by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office along with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board.

It was expected to be several weeks before a preliminary cause for the crash is released.

The highway was closed down for several hours while wreckage was cleared and Rocky Mountain Power crews secured the electrical lines. The highway had reopened by 1:30 p.m.

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