Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Cessna A185E Skywagon, N185RN: Accident occurred April 11, 2020 near D&C Fire Lake Flying Club Seaplane Base (D72), Eagle River, Alaska

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; Anchorage, Alaska 

Location: Eagle River, AK
Accident Number: ANC20LA043
Date & Time: 04/11/2020, 2025 AKD
Registration: N185RN
Aircraft: Cessna A185
Injuries: 2 Serious, 2 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On April 11, 2020, about 2025 Alaska daylight time, a wheel/ski-equipped Cessna A185E, N185RN, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near D&C Fire Lake Flying Club Seaplane Base (D72), Eagle River, Alaska. Of the four occupants onboard, the pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries, and two passengers sustained minor injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A family member of the airplane's occupants reported that, at the time of the accident, the pilot was preparing to land on the frozen, snow-covered surface of Fire Lake, where the family residence is located. He added that the passenger seated in the right front seat was a certificated private pilot, and that two other family members were seated in the two aft seats.

The pilot rated passenger seated in the front right seat reported that the flight between the family's cabin and Fire Lake was uneventful, and that the pilot began the initial descent to Fire Lake after passing the Birchwood Airport (BCV), which is about 5 miles north of Fire Lake. He said that the pilot's intentions were to over fly the lake to inspect the landing area, followed by a left base turn, and a landing on the frozen lake to the north. He added that as they flew over the north side of the lake, on a southerly heading, the pilot began to maneuver the airplane for the approach to land and the engine suddenly lost power, but the propeller continued to windmill. The pilot continued to fly the approach and set up to make an emergency landing, and as he navigated the airplane to the left, he said, in part: "We are going down" which was immediately followed by the sound of the stall warning horn. The airplane subsequently struck a stand of trees and a powerline, and then pitched down violently and struck the ground in a nosed down attitude.

A witness on the ground reported that he observed the airplane fly over the northeast corner of the lake, and head south, at an altitude of about 600 ft. As the airplane passed overhead, he noted that the flaps were initially in the retracted position. He heard the power suddenly change from a mid-range cruise setting to an abrupt loss in power. He added that the propeller continued to windmill following the loss of engine power, and that once the airplane was about midway over the lake it banked to the southwest. He then recalled that the flaps had been extended and the airplane appeared to be in a forward sideslip momentarily. After briefly losing sight of the airplane, he witnessed it heading east toward the direction of the lake. A few seconds later he heard an airplane impact the trees and the ground.

The airplane came to rest in a residential yard in a near vertical position after impacting multiple trees and a powerline.

On April 12, the airplane wreckage was recovered from the accident site and transported to a secure site, and a detailed examination is pending.

The accident airplane was equipped with a Garmin GPSmap 495 portable global positioning system (GPS), a J.P. Instruments (JPI) Fuel Scan, model 450, and an Electronics International US-8A engine analyzer, and all items were recovered and subsequently sent to the NTSB's Vehicle Recorders Laboratory in Washington, DC, for download. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N185RN
Model/Series: A185 E
Aircraft Category:Airplane 
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PANC
Observation Time: 1953 AKD
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 3°C / -8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 50°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 7000 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting:
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Unknown
Departure Point:
Destination: Eagle River, AK (D72)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 Minor
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Serious, 2 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 61.351944, -149.548889 (est)

The Matanuska Electric Association reported a plane crash Saturday evening in north Eagle River.

According to the utility company's Facebook page, the crash happened around 8:30 p.m. in the Fire Lake area. There were four people on board, a couple and their two adult children, according to National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Clint Johnson.  There is no information on their current condition.

The crash caused damage to power lines and knocked out power for 85 customers. MEA said it restored power around 12:15 a.m. Sunday. 

The National Transportation Safety Board was unable to send investigators to the crash site due to concerns over COVID-19, according to Johnson. He says the final decision on whether to send a team will be made by his supervisors in Washington, D.C.

Johnson says the National Transportation Safety Board is working with the Anchorage fire and police departments to investigate the crash. No other details are available at this time.


Four people were injured when a plane crashed during landing near Fire Lake in Eagle River on Saturday evening, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Cessna A185E Skywagon crashed shortly after 8 p.m., said  National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Clint Johnson. The four people on board had a range of injuries, from minor to serious, he said. They were all brought to the hospital, but investigators had not yet talked with them by Sunday afternoon.

The plane crashed into electrical wires at some point, Johnson said. Power was out for several hours in roughly 85 nearby homes, according to the Matanuska Electric Association.

The mangled plane came to rest in the lawn of a home on the west side of the lake near the Glenn Highway.

 National Transportation Safety Board investigators are not on scene due to COVID-19 concerns, Johnson said. The wreckage from the plane will instead be moved to a safe storage location and investigators will examine it at a later date. Johnson said investigators are working from home currently because of the pandemic.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s really, really hard not to be able to show up at the scene.”

Johnson said investigators were relying on help from the Anchorage Police Department and Anchorage Fire Department at the scene. Crews were working to clear the wreckage Sunday afternoon.


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