Flight Standards District Office: FAA Scottsdale FSDO-07
NTSB Identification: WPR14FA303
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 20, 2014 in Sedona, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/25/2016
Aircraft: CESSNA 182L, registration: N42474
Injuries: 4 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 private pilot was conducting a personal cross-country flight. A witness reported observing the airplane flying into a canyon from above the tree line near the top of the canyon. Another witness, who did not see the airplane, reported hearing the airplane’s engine accelerate, become quiet, and accelerate again, which was followed shortly thereafter by an explosion. The airplane impacted terrain at the bottom of a canyon and was destroyed. A postcrash examination of the airplane revealed no anomalies what would have precluded normal operation.
It is likely the pilot failed to maintain adequate airspeed and exceeded the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack while entering the canyon, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall from which there was insufficient altitude to recover. In addition, the calculated density altitude of 9,675 ft would have adversely affected the airplane’s performance.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed and his exceedance the airplane’s critical angle-of-attack while maneuvering through a canyon in high-density altitude conditions at low altitude, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.
Jonathan McGeary (pilot)
HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On July 20, 2014, about 1530 mountain standard time, a Cessna 182L, N42474, collided with the terrain in Fay Canyon near Sedona, Arizona. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact and postcrash fire. The airplane was registered to Pipe Dream Aviation LLC and operated by the private pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight departed Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Flagstaff, Arizona about 1430 with a destination of the Sedona Airport (SEZ), Sedona, Arizona.
Multiple witnesses located in Fay Canyon at the time of the accident stated that the airplane flew in from the top of the canyon. One of the witnesses didn't see the airplane but heard the engine accelerate then get quiet and accelerate again. An explosion was heard shortly after. The other witness saw the airplane above the tree line at the end of the canyon before losing sight of it in the trees.
A 9-1-1 call recorded a statement from a witness that was hiking on the summit of Bear Mountain, adjacent to Fay Canyon. He stated that an airplane was flying in the area and shortly after saw smoke rising from a nearby canyon near where he last saw the airplane.
A review of FAA airman records revealed that the 22-year-old pilot held a private pilot certificate with a airplane single engine land rating. His third-class medical certificate was issued in November 19, 2010, with no limitations. According to the pilot's last medical application, the pilot reported a total flight experience of 10 total hours and 10 hours in the last six months. According to family members, the pilot had about 170 hours of total flight time, and about 40 in the accident airplane at the time of the accident. The pilot's flight logbook was not found during the investigation.
The 4-seat, high-wing, fixed tricycle-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 18259032, was manufactured in 1968. It was powered by a Continental O-470 modified to a P. Ponk O-470-50, STC conversion engine, serial number 191847-8-R/2735. The airplane was also equipped with a McCauley adjustable blade propeller; model number 2A34C66-NP.
Review of the aircraft maintenance logbooks revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on February 7, 2014, at an airframe total time of 3,029.8 hours and an engine time since major overhaul of 126.1 hours. The most recent airframe logbook entry, dated March 21, 2014, at an airframe total time of 3,030.3 hours, stated that the fuel vent/feed line couplings in the left and right hand wing roots were replaced.
A review of recorded data from Earnest A. Love Field Airport (KPRC), Prescott, Arizona, automated weather observation station 36 miles southwest of the accident site, revealed at 1453 conditions were wind 190 degrees at 7 knots, with gusts to 19 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 31° Celsius, dew point 2° Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.18 inches of mercury.
A review of recorded data from KSEZ, automated weather observation station about 6 miles southeast from the accident site, revealed at 1515 conditions were wind 250 degrees at 8 gusting to 14 knots, variable from 220 to 300 degrees, visibility 10 statute miles, clear sky, temperature 32° Celsius, dew point 2° Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.16 inches of mercury.
Using the reported weather conditions and the elevation of the canyon rim near Bear Mountain (6,400 feet), the calculated density altitude was about 9,675 feet.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) revealed that the airplane impacted trees and terrain near the bottom of a steep rugged canyon. The first identified point of contact (FIPC) was a tree about 18-inches in diameter that was uprooted. The debris path was about 100 feet in length and about 40 feet wide and on a 90 degree magnetic heading from the FIPC to the engine. Postimpact fire was found throughout the debris path and through surrounding terrain. About 20 acres of land was burned. The largest airframe structural members were wing spar sections that measured about three to four feet in length. Flight control cable continuity was confirmed through cable separations that exhibited tension overload. The separations were located near the mid-cabin area. The rudder control cables were continuous from the cabin controls to the rudder horn attachment points. Remnants of the right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were found near the main wreckage. The elevator trim actuator extension was measured to be about 1-1/4 inches which equated to about the neutral position. The flap actuator jack screw was found in the retracted position. All flight control surfaces were thermally damaged and were accounted for at the accident site. The fuel selector valve assembly was found in the "Both" position. The engine was found inverted with impact and thermal damage. The mounting structure was partially attached to the engine. The firewall was crushed and remained partially attached to the engine. The propeller assembly separated from the crankshaft propeller flange. The blades remained attached to the hub and had thermal discoloration. One blade had about 6 inches of missing material from the tip and leading edge damage near the separation of the tip. The other blade had s-type bending throughout its span and trailing edge damage.
Examination of the recovered engine was conducted on July 24, 2014 at the facilities of Air Transport in Phoenix, Arizona, by the NTSB IIC, FAA, Textron Aviation, and Continental Motors Inc. The examination revealed no evidence of any pre-collision mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation. For further information see the Engine Examination Summary in the public docket for this accident.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office conducted an autopsy on the pilot on July 22, 2014. According to the report the medical examiner determined that the cause of death was "a result of multiple blunt force trauma," and contributing to his death was "thermal injury."
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. According to CAMI's report, no drugs of abuse were detected.