Friday, April 13, 2018

Cessna 172H, N3712F, registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot: Fatal accident occurred February 25, 2017 in Panguitch, Garfield County, Utah


 Asher Wells (age 8) and Sarah Wells (age 3)


The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities:  
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah 
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas 
Continental Motors Inc.; Mobile, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N3712F


Randy Wells with his two children Asher (age 8) and Sarah (age 3).

Randy's father Marion says his son loved to fly. "There's a lot of pilots in the family," said Marion. And family meant everything to Randy. "He loved his wife and he loved his kids," said Marion. Marion says that Randy took his kids everywhere: from camping to flying to trips around the neighborhood to check on the disabled and elderly members of the ward. "His son Asher was as enthusiastic about flying as Randy was," said Marion. In late February 2017, Randy took his two kids flying to Phoenix. His wife stayed home because she is pregnant. "He wanted to take his kids down there, so that they could visit with their cousins," said Marion. On February 25, 2017 at night, on the return trip home from Phoenix, the plane Randy was flying crashed.
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Aviation Accident Factual Report -  National Transportation Safety Board

Location: Panguitch, UT
Accident Number: WPR17FA065
Date & Time: 02/25/2017, 2040 MST
Registration: N3712F
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On February 25, 2017, about 2040 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172H, N3712F, was substantially damaged during impact with terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude about 11 nautical miles (nm) north-northwest of Panguitch, Utah. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight that was being conducted under visual flight rules. The flight departed Page Municipal Airport (PGA), Page, Arizona, about 1930, with a destination of South Valley Regional Airport (U42), Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to a pilot-rated friend of the family, who resided in the same community as the accident pilot, reported that the pilot initially departed Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA), Phoenix, Arizona, during the late afternoon on the day of the accident. At 1849, he texted the pilot and asked him how the flight back was going. The pilot replied at 1852, and advised him that he had just landed at PGA and was in the process of getting fuel, to which the friend asked how the weather was? At 1854, the pilot responded that it was ok, cloudy, followed by asking his friend how the weather was at his destination. The friend replied, "Cloudy. You good in the dark with the clouds?" There was no immediate response from the pilot. At 1903, the friend asked the pilot if he was going to Kanab then Beaver, then up [Interstate Highway] I-15 for more city lights to follow?' Eight minutes later at 1911, the pilot replied, "I'm thinking of Bryce Canyon, then Richfield, then I-15 on up. How low are the clouds?" About 2 minutes later the friend informed the pilot, "To the east of my house they are all low. Low by the base of the mountain, but out to the west they are higher." Again, there was no immediate response from the pilot. About 8 minutes later at 1921, the friend queried the pilot by asking, "What does the AWC weather briefing say?" The pilot did not respond. At 1923, the friend informed the pilot, "My radar app shows weather over Tropic, but light and some over by Beaver. Nothing bad." At 1924, the pilot replied, "That's what I'm seeing too. I'm just going to stay over the highways." Eight minutes later at 1932, the friend commented, "That's what I like. Follow the light[s]. Keep me posted." The pilot did not respond. At 1940, after another 8 minutes had elapsed, the friend asked the pilot how it was going, to which there was no response; the last communication the pilot's friend received from that pilot was at 1924.

In a statement provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), a PGA fixed-based operator line foreman reported that, at 1850, the pilot called and requested after-hours fuel. The line foreman stated that he arrived at 1900 and topped off both fuel tanks with 18.3 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. The foreman further stated that, after he had completed the fueling, he noticed that the pilot looked very tired. The foreman asked the two passengers if they wanted to lie down for a while. However, they declined and said that they wanted to get home. The foreman told the pilot that there was a place where they could lie down, but the pilot declined the offer. The pilot then loaded the airplane and left the FBO at 1918.

A review of recorded radar data identified the airplane at 1939:30 about 2.3 nm northwest of PGA, proceeding on a northwest heading at 5,400 ft mean sea level (msl). The flight continued to proceed northwest and climbed to an en route cruise altitude between 9,100 ft msl and 9,900 ft msl. The last radar return occurred at 2038:38, about 80 nm northwest of PGA, 160 nm south of U42, and about 2.85 nm southeast of the accident site at an altitude of 9,600 ft msl. The airplane subsequently impacted mountainous terrain in dark night conditions.

When the pilot failed to arrive at U42 that evening, a family member contacted local authorities. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) subsequently issued an alert notification at 0509 on February 26. Search and rescue operations began but were suspended later in the day with no sightings of the wreckage reported. About 1100 on February 27, search and rescue operations located the wreckage. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 41, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/01/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  176.9 hours (Total, all aircraft), 120 hours (Total, this make and model), 113 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 6.1 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating. He was issued a third-class FAA medical certificate, which was issued on September 18, 2015, with no limitations.

A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accumulated a total of 176.9 hours of flight time as of December 29, 2016, which was the date of the last logbook entry. Additionally, the pilot had logged 113 hours as pilot-in-command, 65.3 hours of cross-country flight time, 10.5 hours of night flight time, and 120 hours of flight in the same make and model as the accident airplane. Additionally, the pilot's logbook revealed that he had flown about 6 hours within the preceding 90 days, with no time recorded in the last 30 days. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N3712F
Model/Series: 172 H
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17255207
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/14/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 133 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 7372.64 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Continental Motors
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300-D
Registered Owner: Carl L. Wengel
Rated Power: 145
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane was a four-place, high-wing, single-engine, 1966 Cessna 172H, serial number 17255207. It was powered by a 145-horsepower Continental O-300-D six-cylinder reciprocating engine, serial number 34931-D-6-D, and equipped with a two-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller.

Maintenance records indicated that the most recent annual inspection was completed on April 14, 2016, at a recorded tachometer time of 7,239.75 hours, a recorded engine total time of 6,678.87 hours, and 1,577.14 hours since its last major overhaul. The last maintenance entry was dated October 8, 2016, at a tachometer time of 7,334.27 hours. The entry indicated that a new oil sump gasket was installed after troubleshooting an oil leak. The tachometer indicated 7,372.64 hours at the time of the accident. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: U55, 6763 ft msl
Observation Time: 2059 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 153°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3900 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: -3°C / -6°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 4800 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Light and Variable, 40°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Page, AZ (PGA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:  None
Destination:Salt Lake City, UT (U42)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1918 MST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 2000 on February 25, 2017, depicted a stationary front located across central Arizona with a high-pressure system over northern Utah. The accident site was located north of the front in an area with a weak pressure gradient. The surrounding station models over Utah indicated light north and west winds with variable cloud conditions from overcast to clear skies, and one station to the northwest of the accident site reporting light continuous snow.

Weather surveillance radar revealed an area of snow showers over the accident site, and an infrared satellite image depicted a band of low stratiform clouds over the accident site with tops near 14,000 ft msl. The cloud bases were estimated at 8,700 ft msl.

A NWS composite radar image for 2040 depicted several clusters of very light intensity echoes over southern Utah, which were consistent with snow showers. An area of echoes of very light intensity was located immediately east of the accident site and north of the departure airport. The presence of the echoes was consistent with an area of clouds and restricted visibility along the route of flight and potential localized mountain obscuration conditions.

The NWS's Center Weather Service Unit at the Salt Lake City air traffic control center (ZLC) issued a meteorological impact statement at 1136 that was valid until 2100. The statement was applicable to the accident area and indicated widespread marginal visual flight rules/instrument flight rules conditions in snow with low ceilings and visibility, and gusty surface winds in the northern ZLC area. These conditions were forecast to spread south and east through the afternoon and into Sunday night.

The Panguitch Municipal Airport (U55) was located about 12 nm south-southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 6,763 ft msl and had an automated weather observation system (AWOS) that broadcast weather locally. The observation issued immediately after the accident was as follows:

Panguitch weather at 2059, automated, wind from 040° at 3 knots (kts), visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 3,900 ft above ground level (agl), overcast ceiling at 4,800 ft agl, temperature -3°C, dew point -6°C, and altimeter 29.99 inches of mercury.

At 2053, the weather reporting station at the Bryce Canyon Airport (BCE), Bryce Canyon, Utah, located about 28 nm southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 7,590 ft msl, reported wind 250° at 5 kts, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature -7°C, dew point -6°C, and altimeter 29.87 inches of mercury.

At 2040, the weather reporting station at the Milford Municipal Airport (MLF), Milford, Utah, located about 40 nm north-northwest of the accident site at an elevation of 5,042 ft msl, reported wind 350° at 10 kts, visibility 9 statute miles, light snow showers, few clouds at 2,200 ft agl, overcast clouds at 4,000 ft agl, temperature -2°C, dew point -4°C, and altimeter 29.95 inches of mercury.

Astronomical data from the United States Naval Observatory for Panguitch on February 25 indicated that sunset was at 1821, and the end of civil twilight was at 1847. Moonrise was at 0711, and moonset was at 1842. At the time of the accident at 2049, both the sun and moon were more than 15° below the horizon and provided no illumination.

The investigation found no evidence that the pilot had received a weather briefing before departing from PGA for the flight to U42. 




Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  38.007222, -112.499444 

On the morning of February 28, 2017, investigators from the NTSB and the FAA, assisted by members of the Iron County Sheriff's Department, Cedar City, Utah, surveyed the accident site. The survey revealed that the airplane had initially impacted snow-covered mountainous terrain in a nose-low attitude on a southwest heading at an elevation of about 7,358 ft msl. The airplane subsequently came to rest in a ravine about 206 ft from the initial point of impact at an elevation of about 7,237 ft msl. The airplane was severely fragmented and deformed during the accident sequence. Onsite documentation was hampered by the snow-covered terrain, as well as active snow showers throughout the day. All necessary components for flight were accounted for at the accident site.

The accident site was characterized by sparse vegetation, and there were no close inhabited dwellings.

The fuselage was observed in many sections with both wings separated from the fuselage. The empennage was observed with all flight controls attached. All flight control cables were accounted for at the accident site. There was no evidence of postcrash fire.

Airplane and engine components observed in the initial debris path consisted of the engine's carburetor, the left door post, the right wingtip, the nose landing gear strut, and the intake air box. Additional components identified about halfway down the debris field included the nose landing gear wheel/tire, part of the engine cowling, magneto assembly, and part of an aileron. The last third of the debris field included the left cabin door, a main landing gear wheel/tire, the emergency locator transmitter, a fuel tank, and the engine. The propeller was located about 135 ft west of the main wreckage site. The outboard section of the left wing was located about 25 ft east of the main wreckage. The left fuel gauge was reading off-scale high, and the right gauge was reading just above one-half tank full.

The wreckage was recovered to a secured salvage facility for further examination, which revealed the following information.

The cabin and cockpit areas were both destroyed by impact forces during the accident sequence.

The left wing sustained impact damage throughout its span with the outboard 4 ft having separated during the impact sequence. The wing strut remained attached to the wing but separated from the fuselage and was observed bent due to impact forces. The left flap was bent and twisted and remained attached to the wing's trailing edge at all attach points. The flap was observed in the up/retracted position. The left aileron, which was bent and twisted, remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points. The left fuel tank was destroyed by impact forces. The left fuel cap was not observed. The left elevator remained attached to the left horizontal stabilizer at all attach points. The inboard trailing edge of the left elevator was bent up slightly, and the outboard section was slightly wrinkled. The leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the fuselage and was deformed through its span.

The right wing remained attached to the fuselage by a small amount of metal skin. The top half of the wing strut remained attached to the wing, and the bottom half was separated from the fuselage attach point. The flap remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points, and the inboard section was bent down about 90°. The right aileron, which was bent, twisted, and mangled, was separated from the wing's trailing edge. The right fuel tank cap was intact and tight to movement. The right fuel tank was breached with leading edge impact damage and aft crushing. The right elevator remained attached to the trailing edge of the right horizontal stabilizer at all attach points with minor damage observed. The right elevator trim tab remained attached to the hinge points of the right elevator at all attach points. The tab was observed in the neutral position and slightly damaged at mid-span. The right horizontal stabilizer's outboard 2 ft were crushed aft with the top and bottom surfaces wrinkled; it remained attached to the aft fuselage.

The vertical stabilizer had separated in an upward motion from the aft fuselage. The lower 18 inches of the stabilizer was impact damaged, and the top portion was wrinkled.

The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer at all attach points and sustained only minor damage.

Both the left and right main landing gear remained attached to the fuselage at all attach points. Both gear sustained impact damage during the accident sequence.

Aileron cables were attached to the right and left aileron bellcranks. The aileron cables and chains were intact; however, the chains were off their respective sprockets. The elevator cables were attached at the elevator aft bellcrank, at the elevator, and at the forward elevator bellcrank. The push-pull rod from the bottom of the control column to the forward elevator bellcrank was separated at both ends; however, the attaching hardware was in place. The rudder cables were attached to the rudder bellcrank and to the rudder torque tubes. The rudder torque tubes were separated from the floorboard area. All flight control cables had numerous tension overload-type separations. The flap actuator was extended about 1 inch, which would place the flaps about 4° down.

Air was passed through the fuel selector valve. With the valve in the "BOTH" position, the valve was functionally tested and functioned properly. The fuel selector handle was separated from the valve and was trapped in the "BOTH" position.

The engine separated from the airplane during the accident sequence. Several components separated from the engine, and a significant amount of mud was compacted into the engine. The magnetos were not recovered from the accident site. The vacuum pump separated and was not recovered. The mounting flange of the pump remained with the engine and was of the style indicating that a dry-type vacuum pump was installed. The carburetor bowl was removed and hydraulic damage, consistent with fuel in the carburetor at the time of impact, was noted to the brass floats.

One propeller blade, which was marked "A" by investigators, exhibited extreme leading edge damage at the tip accompanied by blade twisting. The other propeller blade, which was marked "B", exhibited both leading and trailing edge damage. After removal of the propeller spinner, several small drill holes of an undetermined depth were noted in the propeller hub. None of the observed holes exhibited cracking. The location of the holes was such that they may have been the result of someone stop-drilling cracks in the forward propeller spinner bulkhead plate and inadvertently drilling into the propeller.

The examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal evidence of any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
Medical And Pathological Information

The Office of the Medical Examiner, Utah Department of Health, Taylorsville, Utah, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The examination revealed that the cause of death was blunt force injures. Toxicology testing by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for all substances tested.



On February 25, 2017 Randy Wells was flying home from Phoenix, Arizona with his two children Asher (age 8) and Sarah (age 3).  Tragedy struck and the plane crashed near Panguitch, Utah. It is devastating news that no one survived the crash.  Kristin Wells is Randy's wife and the only surviving member of the family.  She is 20 weeks pregnant and just found out on February 20, 2017 she is expecting a baby girl. 


NTSB Identification: WPR17FA065
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, February 25, 2017 in Panguitch, UT
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N3712F
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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 February 25, 2017, about 2040 mountain standard time (mst), a Cessna 172H, N3712F, was substantially damaged following impact with terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude about 11 nautical miles (nm) north-northwest of Panguitch, Utah. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The cross-country flight was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and a flight plan was not filed. The flight departed Page Municipal Airport (PGA), Page, Arizona, at about 1918, with the reported destination as South Valley Regional Airport (U42), Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to a friend of the family, the pilot initially departed the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA), Phoenix, Arizona, during the late afternoon on the day of the accident. The pilot's friend stated that the pilot texted him at 1853, that he had just landed at PGA and was in the process of getting fuel. The friend opined that he and the pilot then discussed cloud conditions along the next leg of the flight from PGA to U42, with the pilot stating the he intended to proceed on a route to Bryce Canyon (BCE), Utah, Richfield (RIF), Utah, and then following the lights of Interstate Highway I15 to his destination. PGA airport personnel who topped the airplane off with aviation fuel stated that the pilot departed at 1918 for U42; the distance of the flight was of about 220 nm.

When the pilot failed to arrive at U42 that evening, a family member contacted local authorities. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) subsequently issued an Alert Notification (ALNOT) the following morning, February 26th, at 0509 mst. That morning search and rescue operations were put into effect, which were suspended later in the day with no sightings of the wreckage reported. During the morning of February 27th, search and rescue operations resumed, with the airplane's wreckage located in mountainous terrain at about 1100 mst.

On the morning of February 28th, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA, assisted by members of the Iron County Sheriff's Department, Cedar City, Utah, surveyed the accident site. The survey revealed that the airplane had initially impacted mountainous terrain in a nose-low attitude on a southwest heading at an elevation of about 7,258 ft msl. The airplane then traveled downslope for about 211 feet before coming to rest after impacting upsloping terrain of a ravine at an elevation of about 7,237 ft msl. The site survey further revealed that all flight control surfaces necessary for flight were accounted for at the accident site.  The wreckage was recovered to a secured salvage facility for further examination.

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