Friday, July 13, 2018

Piper PA-28-235, N9399W: Fatal accident occurred September 14, 1997 in St. Ignace, Mackinac County, Michigan

Pilot Mark Davies and his wife, Janet

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Grand Rapids

Missing since September 14, 1997 aircraft located in forest.

Date: 14-SEP-97
Time: 22:43:00Z
Regis#:     N9399W
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA 28 235
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 91

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board:

Accident Number: CHI97FAMS4
Date & Time: 09/14/1997, 1553 EDT
Registration: N9399W
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-235
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event:
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The airplane was observed departing the airport at approximately 1553 edt on September 14, 1997. At the time of departure, the Toronto Air Traffic Control Center's radar showed the airplane to depart Drummond Island and head south 20 to 25 miles before turning 180 degrees and disappearing off radar. Weather was reported to be IMC. Neither the airplane nor the pilot and passenger were located.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:


Phase of Operation: UNKNOWN


Factual Information

On September 14, 1997, at 1553 eastern daylight time (edt), a Piper PA-28-235, N9399W, registered to and operated by a private pilot, was observed departing Drummond Island, Michigan, with the intended destination of Howell, Michigan.  The airplane, pilot and passenger have been missing since that time.  A search did not locate either the airplane or the pilot and passenger.  The personal 14 CFR flight was operating in instrument meteorological conditions.  No flight plan was on file.  The airplane is presumed destroyed and the pilot and passenger are presumed to have sustained fatal injuries.

According to Toronto Air Route Traffic Control Center NTAP data, the airplane departed Drummond Island at 1553 edt and was observed flying 20 to 25 miles south then turning 180 degrees before disappearing from their radar. 

A friend of the pilot said that the pilot normally flew direct GPS and was known to experience vertigo easily.  Other pilots reported that the weather that day went down to 200 feet overcast.

The Coast Guard and the Civil Air Patrol initiated a search.  They searched for four days, before abandoning the search for lack of sighting evidence of the airplane.  The search determined the airplane never reached its intended destination on September 14, 1997.  There were sightings of low flying aircraft over I-75, but the Civil Air Patrol was unsuccessful in locating N9399W. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 46, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 3 Valid Medical--w/ waivers/lim.
Last FAA Medical Exam: 10/03/1995
Occupational Pilot:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: 275 hours (Total, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N9399W
Model/Series: PA-28-235 PA-28-235
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 28-11104
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2900 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
Engine Model/Series: O-540
Registered Owner: MARK ARTHUR DAVIES
Rated Power: 250 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Distance from Accident Site:
Observation Time:
Direction from Accident Site:
Lowest Cloud Condition: Unknown
Visibility:  0 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 0 ft agl
Visibility (RVR): 0 ft
Wind Speed/Gusts: /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction: 110°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting:
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C / 12°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point:  (Y66)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: HOWELL, MI (OZW)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1530 EDT
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire:
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:

ST. IGNACE, Mich. - The wreckage believed to be from a plane missing for nearly 21 years has been located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The single-engine piper Cherokee took off Sept. 14, 1997, and was headed to Howell, but it never arrived.

A U.S. Forestry Service officer was doing surveying in the area and discovered their plane in the Hiawatha National Forest near St. Ignace Wednesday near Castle Rock.

Mark Davies was a 46-year-old auto mechanic and experienced pilot. Davies and his 52-year-old wife Janet lived in a home on Lake Chemung between Brighton and Howell.

Janet was an artist and teacher and used the garage as an art studio. She befriend Ted Sarrach's late mother, who lived just steps away, and gifted her her art often.

"They talked about children, they talked about the lake," Sarrach said. "She lived here for quite some time and she bought the house next to here and made it into a studio."

Sarrach said the Davies planned to retire to the Upper Peninsula. 

"They were going to build up there, thinking of retiring, and that they flew up there to look at their property and get some ides of what type of building they wanted," Sarrach said.

Sarrach said he believes they flew north on a Friday and return on a Sunday, but they never made it. 

Janet was expected to start teaching the next day. Ken Hamman, the former principal at Scranton Middle School and Brighton Middle School, remembers her as a good friend and colleague.

"Janet was a very kind, gracious and caring teacher," Hamman said. "Well liked by her students."

Scranton Middle School dedicated the 1997-1998 yearbook to the teacher and her husband.

"I guess it's a mix of sadness and some sense of closure also since nothing had been found," Hamman said.

Story and video ➤

MACKINAC COUNTY (WJRT) (07/12/18) - Police have discovered the wreckage of a small plane that crashed more than 20 years ago in the Upper Peninsula.

The crash was located in a very remote area of the Hiawatha National Forest near St. Ignace. A forester made the chance discovery and police later confirmed the tail number matches the plane missing since 1997.

"The plane is white and we have outcroppings of limestone, so it might have been blended in that way, so we're not quite sure," said Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait. "It's in a very remote area of the county surrounded by swamp land and heavily forested areas."

The plane took off from Drummond Island in Lake Huron in the fall of 1997. It reportedly was bound for Howell, but no official flight plan had been filed.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the plane was seen on the radar flying south, then it turned and flew north. That's when it disappeared from radar.

After no sign of the crash, the U.S. Coast Guard ended the search after four days.

A couple from Howell, 45-year-old pilot Mark Davies and his wife Janet, were on board the aircraft.

"Mark and Janet, they used to fly up here. I knew them because I run the airport," said James Bailey, the manager at the Drummond Island Airport. "It's just nice to know they found it for the family."

The Davies have a lot of close ties to Mid-Michigan. Several of Janet's siblings still live in the area. A sister said they've been waiting for this news.

The NTSB will now investigate items found in the wreckage and search for any trace of human remains.

Original article can be found here ➤

The wreckage of a plane that was bound for Howell more than 20 years ago was found Wednesday in the Upper Peninsula.

“The National Transportation Safety Board was notified of wreckage found in Hiawatha National Forest by the forest service folks on July 11,” NTSB Spokesman Eric Weiss said. “The wreckage was a single engine airplane. They could see the registration number was N9399W.”

Through that number, the plane was identified as a Piper PA-28-235, the same aircraft that took off shortly before 4 p.m., Sept. 14, 1997 from Drummond Island in Lake Huron and then vanished.

Pilot Mark Davies, 45, and his wife, Janet, were heading to Howell, 300 miles to the south, but did not file a flight plan.

After a four-day search by the Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard, the search was abandoned. The plane, according to an NTSB report on the incident, was “presumed destroyed and the pilot and passenger are presumed to have sustained fatal injuries.”

"Now we can address this case and hopefully come to some closure for the families and community," Weiss said.

The NTSB will lead the investigation into what happened in the crash, along with the cooperation of the Federal Aviation Administration, the airplane and engine manufacturers and local authorities, including the Mackinac County Sheriff's Office.  

According to Toronto Air Route Traffic Control Center data, the plane was observed flying 20 to 25 miles south then turning 180 degrees before disappearing from the center's radar.

In the original NTSB report on the incident, it was noted, “A friend of the pilot said that the pilot normally flew direct GPS and was known to experience vertigo easily. Other pilots reported that the weather that day went down to 200 feet overcast.”

Weiss said generally planes that crash are found within a couple of days or weeks. While finding a plane that crashed more than two decades ago is not unheard of, Weiss adds that it is "rare enough" that (the NTSB) doesn’t track the number of missing planes.

"We are current assessing the location of the wreckage and the logistics necessary to respond and investigate," Weiss said. "It is in Hiawatha National Forest, in a pretty remote area. It's a situation where the investigator can't just go to the scene, the wreckage has to be removed to area where we can review and look at it."

Original article can be found here ➤

ST. IGNACE, Mich. (AP) - UPDATE: Thursday, July 12, 6:02 P.M:

The Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were notified of the discovery of aircraft wreckage in the Hiawatha National Forest on Wednesday, July 11th.

Deputies have responded to the crash site and are conducting a preliminary investigation along with Hiawatha National Forest Personnel.

The results of that investigation will be turned over to the NTSB.

The wreckage has been identified as a single engine airplane based on the registration number, N9399W, located in the wreckage. A Piper PA-28 airplane with that registration was reported missing on September 14, 1997.

The NTSB initiated an investigation at that time and produced a limited missing aircraft report.

The NTSB will lead the investigation into this accident with the cooperation of the FAA, the airplane engine manufacturers, and Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office.

The NTSB is currently assessing the location of wreckage and the logistics necessary to respond and investigate the scene. The timing of the response to the scene has yet to be determined.

The Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office and the NTSB would like to take this opportunity to offer its condolences to the family and friends of the victims of this accident. 

Authorities believe they have discovered the wreckage of a small plane that crashed more than 20 years ago in remote northern Michigan.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss says national forest personnel found the wreckage Wednesday near St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula.

A single-engine Piper took off Sept. 14, 1997, from Drummond Island in Lake Huron. The 45-year-old pilot, Mark Davies, and his wife, Janet, were heading to Howell, about 300 miles to the south. A flight plan wasn't filed.

The NTSB says the plane was seen on radar flying south, then turning and flying north. Then it disappeared.

A four-day search failed to find the remains of the couple or the plane.

St. Ignace is about 70 miles west of Drummond Island.


  1. At least the family has closure now and they can give the parents a proper burial. Sad story.

  2. An individual with only a VFR ticket who was prone to vertigo taking off into rock-hard IMC with zero visibility and ceiling...

    Amazing he managed to amass 275 hours before killing himself.

  3. I am only citizen (not a pilot) of Michigan who can't believe that news reports have not mentioned that the remains of this plane were recently found across the freeway (and a bit north) of the Mackinac County Airport! And that nobody has speculated in print that perhaps this plane was trying to get to that airport for some reason (poor visibility?, plane problems?) and didn't make it.

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing a low-flying plane over I-75 near St. Ignace, MI. I take that route often, going north from the Mackinac Bridge. Heading out of town, the airport runway can be seen from I-75 on the right (east). Going the posted 75 MPH, it's just a minute or two before you then see on the left (west) the tourist attraction, "Castle Rock." (Both are easily seen on Google Maps, etc.) Apparently the plane's remains were found somewhere in the Hiawatha Forest west of but near Castle Rock--just northwest of a nice, safe small airport.

    It has been confirmed that they left Drummond Island, flew south, then turned west & headed north. Finding wreckage so close to the airport just seems obvious to me that they tried to get there but something went wrong.

    I realize the original investigation lead people to search virtually anywhere between Drummond Island & their intended destination of Howell. But now that the wreckage has been found, I find it amazing that nobody has speculated about why it is located where it was found.

    Just my 2 cents' worth.