Monday, May 27, 2019

Loss of Lift: Cessna 180K, N2957K; accident occurred June 15, 2018 in Ambler, Alaska

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Ambler, AK
Accident Number: ANC18LA046
Date & Time: 06/15/2018, 1538 AKD
Registration: N2957K
Aircraft: CESSNA 180K
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of lift
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor, 1 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter - Non-scheduled 

On June 15, 2018, about 1538 Alaska daylight time, a tailwheel-equipped Cessna 180K airplane, N2957K, sustained substantial damage when it collided with hilly, sand covered-terrain after takeoff from a remote off airport site, about 26 miles southeast of Ambler, Alaska. The airplane was registered to Airframe Innovations Incorporated and operated by Northstar Aero LLC as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 visual flight rules flight when the accident occurred. Of the three occupants, the airline transport pilot sustained no injuries, one passenger sustained minor injuries, and the remaining passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and company flight following procedures were in place. The flight departed the Fairbanks International Airport (PAFA), Fairbanks, Alaska, about 1024, and it was returning at the time of the accident.

In the pilot's written statement provided to the National Transportation Safety Board, he reported, in part, that after landing on a hilly sand dune, the wind at the top of the sand dune increased to 10 to 20 knots over a two-hour time period. After considering and reviewing several downhill departure routes, the pilot said he marked off the most favorable departure route that was into the wind.

The pilot reported that, after loading his two passengers into the airplane, and in preparation for takeoff, he ensured both passengers were wearing their BAS shoulder harness system, then he began the downhill takeoff run. He described the takeoff run as a typical sand dunes departure, with some rocking and bouncing, but the airplane accelerated rapidly downhill, and into the wind. He said that, as the airplane became airborne near the bottom of the dune, he made a slight right turn towards lower terrain, and the airspeed initially increased. He said that, as the airspeed increased to near Vx (Best angle of climb airspeed), the headwind diminished, and the airplane began losing altitude and the stall warning horn sounded. To avoid a collision with a sharp wall of hard packed sand ahead, the pilot said that he continued the slight right turn towards the down sloping terrain, but the airplane continued to descend towards a 60° sloped sand dune. The airplane subsequently collided with the sand dune, sustaining substantial damage to the forward fuselage and serious injuries to the passenger seated in the right front seat.

The pilot stated to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge that he credited the lack of more serious injuries to a recently installed BAS, Inc., four-point shoulder harness and lap belt restraint system.

The pilot reported no mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Airline Transport
Age: 51, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Multi-engine Sea; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 1 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 01/10/2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/03/2017
Flight Time:  17000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 1000 hours (Total, this make and model), 17000 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 56 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 19 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Registration: N2957K
Model/Series: 180K
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1980
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 18053138
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/02/2018, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3190 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 8 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 28488.6 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: C91A installed, activated, did not aid in locating accident
Engine Model/Series: O-470 SERIES
Rated Power: 230 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: J1OC

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAFM, 289 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 23 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 2253 UTC
Direction from Accident Site: 77°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 12 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: / None
Wind Direction: 330°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.85 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 8°C / -3°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Ambler, AK
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Destination: Fairbanks, AK (FAI)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1024 AKD
Type of Airspace: Class G

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Minor, 1 None
Latitude, Longitude:  67.020556, -158.795278

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