Saturday, January 18, 2020

Cessna 172Q Cutlass, N96145: Accident occurred January 16, 2020 at Big Timber Airport (6S0), Sweet Grass County, Montana

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.

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Helena, Montana

Location: Big Timber, MT
Accident Number: WPR20LA068
Date & Time: 01/16/2020, 2000 MST
Registration: N96145
Aircraft: Cessna 172Q
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Instructional 

On January 16, 2020, about 2000 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172Q airplane, N96145, was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground following a total loss of engine power near Big Timber Airport (6S0), Big Timber, Montana. The flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the flight instructor as an instructional flight, conducted under the provision of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a visual flight rules flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight, which departed Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), Billings, Montana at 1910.

According to the flight instructor, after an uneventful flight, the student pilot configured the airplane to land on runway 24 at 6S0. During the approach he chose to perform a go around maneuver as the airplane was too high, but performed a low approach over the runway instead at the request of his instructor. The instructor noted that his student's initial climb actions were consistent with the airplane checklist. They leveled the airplane off at 200 feet above ground level (agl) and flew the full length of the runway before continuing the climbout at the departure end of the runway at 80 kts.

As the airplane passed about 250 ft agl in a climb to their desired altitude of about 500 ft agl, the instructor observed a rattling sound accompanied by a slow drop in airspeed. At 70 kts, the instructor took the controls from the student and began a left turn towards the airport. He verified the throttle control was at the firewall and noted that the rattling sound was continuous. As the airspeed dropped to 65 kts he noted that the engine rpm was at 2,100 when he expected 2,300. The instructor pitched the airplane for 50 kts and made a right turn moments before the airplane impacted the ground.

According to a diagram furnished by the instructor, the airplane impacted the ground about 425 yards northwest of runway 24 and slid about 125 yards before it came to rest. The instructor located an approximate 1 foot long section of blade tip in the debris path.

The airplane has been retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N96145
Model/Series: 172Q P
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:No 
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Does Business As: Aviation Adventures
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: , 4493 ft msl
Observation Time: 1955 MST
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: -7°C / -12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.72 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Departure Point: Billings, MT (BIL)
Destination: Big Timber, MT (6S0) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 45.810000, -109.980000 (est)

Certified flight instructor George Schmalz has taught many students the protocol and procedures that need to be followed when a plane is on the verge of crashing. 

On Thursday, he had to follow his own advice.

Jacob Karp, Schmalz’s student, was flying a Cessna 172 from the Billings International Airport on Thursday night toward the Big Timber Airport.

Karp conducted a low approach about 200 feet above the airport's runway, quickly turning around and climbing up to altitude for takeoff back to Billings.

At 400 feet in the air, the pair started to hear “a vibrating, clacking sound in the engine” for about 30 seconds. The plane began losing speed.

Schmalz took over the controls on the passenger side and turned the plane 180 degrees toward the airport's flatter terrain.

“It happens real fast and you’re just making a lot of decisions as quickly as you can, so you’re hoping you made the right decisions as you go along,” Schmalz said, who is an instructor for Aviation Adventures in Billings.

It was a dark, moonless night, he said, and the cockpit had gone dark since the plane was losing power. Schmalz said he didn’t even see the ground approaching. All he could do was maintain control of the plane.

It crashed nose first on its left side and slid over the snowy grass for about 125 yards on the southwest corner of the airfield around 8 p.m. that night.

After the crash, Schmalz and Karp were able to escape the wreckage and call 911 on their cell phones. They were met by emergency medical response crews and the Sweet Grass County Sheriff's Office on scene. They were taken to Pioneer Medical Clinic with bumps and bruises.

Within an hour of getting medical treatment, they were able to walk away from the clinic.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash according to FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer. Schmalz said that reports are often used to identify if it’s a manufactured mechanical issue and to prevent future crashes.

As the site is being investigated, high winds in Big Timber caused the plane to flip over on its top on Friday.

“It appeared to be a total loss on the aircraft,” Schmalz said.

Aviation Adventures is a flight school in Billings and offers in-air instruction as well as a flight simulator. The school certifies students for private pilot, instrument and commercial licensing.

The Cessna 172Q Cutlass was the only aircraft the school had, but plans to file an insurance claim on the plane are in the works after the investigation. Renting, leasing or buying another aircraft will be the next step.

One of the requirements during training is to have a student fly during the night, Schmalz said. The idea was to fly more than 50 nautical miles in the dark and return back to Billings that night. Schmalz said Karp learned a lot from the experience and should be continuing his training.

The incident reminded Schmalz of the recent plane crash about 25 miles north of Billings that killed four men last weekend.

The Sweet Grass County Sheriff’s Office, the Big Timber Volunteer Fire Department and the Sweet Grass County Ambulance Service responded to the scene within minutes. He said they owe their lives to the crews who helped them.

“They did a really good job taking care of us,” Schmalz said.

The Sweet Grass County Sheriff’s Office, Big Timber Volunteer Fire Department and Sweet Grass County Ambulance Service responded report of a plane crash at 8 p.m., January 16th, at Big Timber Airport. The two occupants of the aircraft self-extricated and were met by EMS personnel on scene. Both parties were taken to Pioneer Medical Center for assessment of minor injuries. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been notified and will continue to investigate the crash.  -Sweet Grass Co Sheriff's Office

1 comment:

  1. So the instructor said that when the engine quit the entire cockpit went dark..... He gave about four different accounts of the story... Nothing smells funny about that...hmmm