Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Cessna R172K Hawk XP, N736AS: Fatal accident occurred March 05, 2017 in Nome, Alaska

Thomas Joseph Grainger 

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Fairbanks, Alaska  

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

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


Location: Nome, AK
Accident Number: ANC17FA018
Date & Time: 03/05/2017, 2223 AKS
Registration: N736AS
Aircraft: CESSNA R172K
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On March 5, 2017, about 2223 Alaska standard time, a Cessna R172K airplane, N736AS, impacted sea ice in Norton Sound, about 10 miles east of Nome, Alaska. The private pilot sustained fatal injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a visual flight rules (VFR) personal flight, and instrument meteorological condition (IMC) prevailed at the time of the accident. No flight plan was filed. The flight departed Wasilla Airport (IYS), Wasilla, Alaska, at 1710 destined for Nome City Field Airport (94Z), Nome, Alaska.

The pilot's fiancée stated that the pilot had not flown his airplane since late summer 2016 and that he had listed the airplane for sale in January 2017 because he flew the airplane infrequently. She said that the pilot had flown to Nome often but usually during the summer. On the day of the accident, the pilot's fiancée observed him fueling the airplane from a self-service commercial fuel tank and filling 5-gallon fuel containers before departure. A fuel receipt indicated that the pilot purchased 35.3 gallons of fuel. 

The distance from IYS to 94Z is about 470 nautical miles (nm). The pilot's fiancée reported that she received a text message from the pilot about 2100 indicating that he was about 45 minutes from 94Z but would not be able to land there due to weather. The pilot also sent a text message to a friend in Nome, asking about the weather. The friend reported that she sent a text message at 2141 to the pilot indicating a visibility of 10 miles and a ceiling of 600 ft overcast. The pilot responded, "Ok I think I can sneak in." He sent text messages to his friend indicating "one more try" and "one more ok" before texting "not happening" at 2214. A review of Garmin GPSmap 296 data showed an airplane track that included four approaches to runway 21 at 94Z, some maneuvering in the area, and a departure from the area to the east.

Witnesses observed the airplane in fog. They stated that the airplane engine sounded normal and that the airplane lights were on. One witness called the Nome flight service station to ensure that the runway lights were on at Nome Airport (PAOM), which was a larger airport located 1 mile west of 94Z. This witness stated that he was surprised that someone would attempt to land at 94Z given the weather conditions (reported by a witness who lived near 94Z to be "very foggy" with a ceiling of about 300 ft) and the unlit snow-covered runway. That witness observed the airplane making multiple approaches in fog and then departing to the east. He also heard, on the common traffic advisory frequency, a transmission that sounded as if someone were stating "no, no, no!" sometime after the airplane departed the area. This witness then listened to another frequency for an emergency locator transmitter signal but did not hear one.

The Garmin GPSmap 296 data showed that the airplane made no en route stops after departure from IYS and that the airplane was at an altitude of about 9,000 ft while in cruise flight. The total GPS distance flown was 518 nm; the total GPS movement time was about 5 hours 15 minutes. The last GPS data point, which was 9 minutes after the last landing attempt, was at 2223 and indicated that the airplane's groundspeed was 36 knots at an altitude of 373 ft. Figure 1 shows the GPS track data in the Nome area. A GPS report is in the public docket for this accident.

Figure 1. Garmin GPSmap 296 flight data and airport and wreckage locations.

The pilot's fiancée reported the airplane overdue about 0530 on March 6. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert notice at 0606, and an area-wide airport and radio search was conducted. About 0959, a Nome search and rescue crew located the airplane wreckage on sea ice about 10 miles east of Nome, in Norton Sound near Hastings Creek. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 28, 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 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/22/2013
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  (Estimated) 250 hours (Total, all aircraft), 250 hours (Total, this make and model), 200 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 0 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot, age 28, held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. He held a third-class medical certificate issued on January 22, 2013, with the limitation "not valid for night flying or by color signal control." A review of FAA aeromedical certification documentation revealed that the pilot failed the color vision test during his 2013 and 2006 aeromedical physicals. According to a statement by the pilot's fiancée, the pilot was well rested and had worked until 1300 on the day of the accident.

The pilot's logbook was not located. His most recent FAA medical application, dated January 22, 2013, stated that he had 62 hours total flight experience with no accumulated time in the previous 6 months. The flight time that the pilot accumulated in the 4 years after the examination could not be determined. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N736AS
Model/Series: R172K K
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate:  Normal
Serial Number: R1722378
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/05/2015, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2550 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2102.5 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: IO-360-K
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 210 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

The four-seat, high-wing, fixed-gear Cessna R172K Hawk XP airplane, serial number R1722378, was manufactured in 1977. The airplane was equipped with a 210-horsepower Continental Motors IO-360-K engine, serial number 355372, and a constant-speed two-blade McCauley 2A34C203-C propeller. The airplane was configured with wheels.

A review of the airframe and engine logbooks revealed that the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on February 5, 2015, with a tachometer time of 1,380.4 hours, an airframe total time of 2,102.5 hours, and an engine time since major overhaul of 131.4 hours. The airplane had not been inspected for more than 2 years before the accident and thus was not in compliance with 14 CFR 91.409(a), which states that airplanes operating under Part 91 are required to undergo annual inspections.

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAOM, 22 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 10 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0704 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 293°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Thin Overcast / 400 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling:  Overcast / 400 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts:  Calm /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: /
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: /
Altimeter Setting: 30.49 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: -21°C / -22°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: WASILLA, AK (IYS)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: NOME, AK (94Z)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1710 AKS
Type of Airspace: Class E

The closest weather reporting facility was PAOM, which was about 11 miles west of the accident site. At 2204, an automated special weather observation report indicated the following conditions: wind calm, sky overcast 400 ft, visibility 10 miles, temperature -21°C, dew point 22°C, and altimeter 30.49 inches of mercury.

The PAOM terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) that was published at 1422 on the day of the accident, which would have been available to the pilot before the flight, stated the following conditions from 1600 onward: wind 330° at 3 knots, visibility 4 miles in light snow and mist, and ceiling broken at 1,500 ft. The next TAF was published at 2020, which was after the flight departed, and was valid starting at 2100. The TAF forecasted wind from 280° at 4 knots, visibility 1 ½ miles in light snow and mist, and ceiling overcast at 500 ft. No evidence indicated that the pilot obtained a weather brief before or during the flight.

The nearest public airport outside of Nome is White Mountain Airport (PAWM), White Mountain, Alaska, which is 60 miles northeast of Nome. The 2158 and 2258 automated observations at PAWM both reported a visibility of 10 miles and a clear ceiling. 

The US Naval Observatory listed sunset in Nome on March 5, 2017, at 1933 and the end of evening civil twilight at 2022. The FAA defines night at "the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight."

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 64.448056, -165.091389 (est)

The airplane came to rest in an open area of sea ice and snow in a steep nose-low attitude on a 110° heading, as shown in figure 2. All major components were located in the wreckage field. The engine, forward fuselage, and cabin were significantly crushed, and the wing leading edges exhibited fore-to-aft accordion crush damage. The empennage and rear fuselage were intact with a spanwise fracture and torsional displacement of the rear fuselage behind the wing. All flight control surfaces remained attached to the airplane, and continuity to the cockpit controls was established. The flaps were in the up position. 

Figure 2. N736AS wreckage on the Norton Sound sea ice.

The propeller remained attached to the crankshaft, and the propeller blades were bent slightly aft with no chordwise abrasions or torsional deformation. The engine exhibited impact damage, and the crankcase and cylinders remained intact with no evidence of a catastrophic failure. 

The left and right fuel tank caps were secure, and no measurable fuel was observed in either wing fuel tank, which appeared intact. The fuel selector knob indicated "both." Six plastic 5-gallon containers were located in the aft cabin area. Two of the cans were intact and full of fuel, two were ruptured and smelled of fuel, and two were intact and empty. A large cooler with packaged marijuana was discovered in the rear seat.

Airport Information

According to the FAA Alaska Chart Supplement, 94Z is a public airport with one runway, 03/21. Airport comments state no winter maintenance or snow removal, runway condition not monitored, and visual inspection recommended before landing.

PAOM has a part-time flight service station, instrument approaches to the airport's two runways, and approach lighting systems and precision approach path indicator lights for the runways. Snow removal is performed daily from 0600 to 2130.

PAWM has medium-intensity runway lighting. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Alaska State Medical Examiner, Anchorage, Alaska, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The autopsy report attributed the pilot's cause of death to multiple blunt force injuries.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot with negative results for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and drugs.

Additional Information


Fuel Planning

The Cessna 172 Hawk XP pilot operating handbook (POH) indicated that the airplane had a total fuel capacity of 52 gallons and a usable fuel quantity of 49 gallons. A range profile chart in section 5, figure 5-8, indicated that, with standard temperature conditions, at an altitude of 9,000 ft, and with no wind, a 545-nm range can be planned at 60% brake horsepower (BHP), and a 505-nm range can be planned at 70% BHP, with a 5-gallon fuel reserve for each range. The engine power settings and the total fuel quantity at the start of the flight are unknown.

Engine Failure

Section 3 of the POH states the following:

After an engine failure in flight, the best glide speed should be established as quickly as possible. While gliding toward a suitable landing area, an effort should be made to identify the cause of the failure. If the engine cannot be restarted, a forced landing without power must be completed.

The POH also stated that the first procedure for an engine failure during flight is to attain 75 knots (indicated airspeed).


Section 2, figure 2-2 of the POH indicated that the stall speed at maximum gross weight with the flaps retracted was 54 knots.

The FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A), chapter 4, states the following concerning stalls:

A stall is an aerodynamic condition which occurs when smooth airflow over the airplane's wings is disrupted resulting in loss of lift. Specifically, a stall occurs when the AOA [angle-of-attack]—the angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative wind—exceeds the wing's critical AOA. It is possible to exceed the critical AOA at any airspeed, at any attitude, and at any power setting…. A pilot must recognize the flight conditions that are conductive to stalls and know how to apply the necessary corrective action. This level of proficiency requires learning to recognize an impending stall by sight, sound, and feel.

NTSB Identification: ANC17FA018
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 05, 2017 in Nome, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA R172K, registration: N736AS
Injuries: 1 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 March 5, 2017, about 2223 Alaska standard time, a wheel-equipped Cessna 172K airplane, N736AS, sustained substantial damage during impact with sea ice in Norton Sound about 10 miles east of Nome, Alaska. The private pilot and sole occupant received fatal injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot as a visual flight rules (VFR) cross-country personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed along the route of flight, and instrument meteorological condition (IMC) prevailed at the destination. No flight plan was filed. The flight departed the Wasilla Airport, Wasilla, Alaska at 1710 destined for Nome City Field Airport (94Z), Nome.

During an interview with the National Transportations Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC) on March 7, the pilot's fiancé said that the pilot was going to visit friends in Nome and that he was time limited by his work schedule. She said that at about 1700 she witnessed him fueling the airplane and two fuel containers, for a total of 35.3 gallons, per the fuel company records. She said that the pilot flew this route often, maybe 20 times before, but usually in summer.

During an interview with the NTSB IIC on March 8, a friend of the pilot in Nome said that she was expecting him that night by 2130 and he was planning to land at Nome City Field. The airplane arrived in the Nome area at 2141 and she and the pilot texted back and forth for the remainder of the flight. Prior to making any approaches, the friend texted the weather to be "10 miles 600 over." The pilot texted back "Ok I think I can sneak in," then he proceeded to make four visual approaches to City Field runway 21, as well as circling maneuvers in the area. He texted "one more try" and after he couldn't land, he texted "one more ok" before his last attempt. At 2214 he texted "not happening" and departed the area. 

During an interview with the NTSB IIC on March 7, a witness who lives near City Airport saw the airplane making multiple approaches and depart to the east. He also heard a transmission on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) of 123.6 MHz that sounded like "no, no, no" sometime after the airplane departed the area. The concerned witness then listened on 121.5 MHz for an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal, but did not hear one.

The pilot's fiancé reported the airplane overdue at about 0530 on March 6. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an ALNOT (alert notice) at 0606 and an area wide airport and radio search was conducted. At about 0959 a Nome Search and Rescue crew located the airplane wreckage about 10 miles east of Nome, on sea ice, near Hastings Creek. The wreckage consisted of the entire airplane in a vertical nose down attitude. The Garmin GPSMAP 296 device was recovered and downloaded by the NTSB IIC. 

The Garmin GPS data indicates that the airplane took off from Wasilla at 1710 and made no enroute stops. The data shows an airplane track that included four approaches to Nome City Airport runway 21, some maneuvering in the area, then a departure to the east. The total GPS distance flown was 596 statute miles and total GPS time 5.3 hours. The last data point was at time 2223 and indicated the airplane at a groundspeed of 42 mph and 373 feet GPS altitude near the wreckage location.

According to the FAA Alaska Chart Supplement, the Nome City Field Airport has no lighting and is not plowed in winter. About one mile to the west is Nome Airport, which does have runway and approach lighting and is fully maintained.

The pilot held a current FAA Third Class Medical Certificate that stated the restriction "not valid for night flying or by color signal control." 

The Cessna 172K Pilot Operating Handbook indicates a maximum fuel capacity of 52 U.S. gallons and usable fuel of 49 U.S. gallons. The actual fuel quantity for this flight is unknown.

The closest weather reporting facility is Nome Airport, Nome, Alaska, about 11 miles west of the accident site. At 2204, an aviation special weather report (SPECI) from the Nome Airport was reporting in part: Wind calm; sky condition, overcast 400 feet; visibility, 10 statute miles; temperature -21 degrees C; dewpoint -22 degrees C; altimeter, 30.49 inHg. Official sunset was 1933.


  1. who says marijuana isn't deadly?

  2. “Tested negative for carbon monoxide, alcohol, and drugs”. Lot of dumb decisions but smoking weed not one of them.

  3. https://intranet.cargolux.com/divisions/fltops/crew/FlightPlans/ICV87L-26DEC18-LIMC%20TO%20ELLX-073030.PDF

    “I just got back from Nome last night and circled over the scene.

    Notice a couple of things: Wheels are ripped off. No skis. Plane is 10 miles east of Nome, heading away from the town. Hit very hard. What was this guy doing flying around in western Alaska in lousy weather after dark? No flight plan, no communication with anyone on the ground.

    Here's the story: The plane was carrying drugs and this was not his first trip. Previously, he had circled north of the town over miles of empty tundra and air dropped the drugs out of the plane but apparently this time, the money needed to change hands so he was supposed to land. Because the Troopers were eyeing him, he could not land at the main airport and risk search. Once he figured out he was not going to be able to land at the small plane airport because of too much snow, he paniced, called his girl friend on the cell phone and headed east, trying to get to another air strip where he could buy some gas and wait.

    What kind of drugs? Heroin and opiods. Heroin. In Nome, Alaska.“

  4. Correct link:

  5. I guess there's no test for being an idiot!

  6. Anonymous said...
    “Tested negative for carbon monoxide, alcohol, and drugs”. Lot of dumb decisions but smoking weed not one of them.

    Anonymous: you missed my subtle sense of humor. I didn't say he'd been smoking it, but with a cooler full of packaged weed in the back seat, he was dealing weed; ergo it "killed" him.