Monday, February 01, 2021

Cessna 170A, N9114A: Fatal accident occurred January 26, 2021 in Salish Sea, Washington

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; Seattle, Washington
Location: Salish Sea, WA
Accident Number: WPR21LA097
Date & Time: January 26, 2021, 16:40 Local 
Registration: N9114A
Aircraft: Cessna 170A
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On January 26, 2021 about 1640 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 170A airplane, N9114A, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Port Angeles, Washington. The pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot initially departed from Kodiak, Alaska the day before the accident with a final planned destination of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The day of the accident, the pilot refueled the airplane and departed from Ketchikan, Alaska about 1000. During the flight, the pilot was in contact with his mother sending numerous text messages. Around 1525 the pilot sent a text stating that there was a severe headwind and expressed his concerned about having enough fuel to complete the flight. About 15 minutes later, the pilot stated that his GPS indicated he had been airborne for 5.7 hours and had another 1.1 hours of flight time until reaching his destination (equating to a landing time of 1647). He estimated that with a fuel burn between 6 to 10 gallons per hour that the airplane could make it to Port Angeles, but that the headwinds were slowing the airspeed and it was taking him longer than expected to navigate around numerous clouds. Around 1615, the pilot stated that his estimated time of arrival kept changing on his GPS because of the fluctuating wind, turbulence, and cloud avoidance.

A review of the radar data revealed that the targets were on a southerly track, reaching the edge of the northerly land mass at 1634. The radar hits continued south for about 5.4 nm at an altitude of about 1,200 ft. At 1638:06 the returns deviated from the southerly direction and were consistent with the airplane reversing course and heading north-northeast. The returns from the turn to the last hit indicated a decreasing airspeed and a gradual descent from 1,200 to 400 ft (see Picture 1). 

Picture 1: Last Radar Returns

The radar hit the farthest south, was about 6 nm from land to the south and 4 nm from land to the north.

The last radar return was 2.9 nm from the closet land (see Picture 2). The pilot sent a picture to his mother about 1637 which showed a marine vessel towing a barge in the water below his location. The pilot broadcast a mayday call over the Port Angeles UNICOM frequency at 1638:47. He stated that he was out in the middle of the water and was ditching by a boat that was towing a barge. 

Picture 2: Radar Track in reference to Land.

The fuel system was comprised of two wing fuel tanks and the pilot had modified the airplane with a tank in the fuselage. The main left and right tanks each held 20 gals and the fuselage tank held between 10-15 gals.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N9114A
Model/Series: 170A Aircraft
Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KCLM,288 ft msl
Observation Time: 16:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 4°C /-4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 13 knots / , 100°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.38 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Ketchikan , AK (KTN)
Destination: Port Angeles, WA (CLM)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 48.285591,-123.6824 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

PORT ANGELES, Washington — After flying 530 nautical miles from Ketchikan to Port Angeles, pilot Sean M. Hayes was nearing William R. Fairchild International Airport for fuel when he reportedly went down into the Strait of Juan de Fuca shortly after 4:30 p.m. January 26.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement on a determination of a presumed fatal accident that said the pilot issued a distress call heard by several pilots about 20 miles south of Victoria, B.C., releasing a tail number that is registered to Hayes.

“The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate,” the statement said.

“The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates.”

Hayes’ mother, Jo Murphy, identified the Kodiak resident Wednesday as the man who disappeared near the U.S.-Canadian boundary while flying a Cessna 170A.

Family members told the Kodiak Mirror that Hayes was flying to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, a flight he had made many times.

A 13th District Coast Guard spokesman said the pilot had left Ketchikan mid-day January 26 and was flying to Port Angeles.

Rite Bros. Aviation President Jeff Well said Wednesday that Hayes, who had more than 600 hours of flight time, was planning to refuel at Fairchild and did not know if he knew anyone in Port Angeles or was staying overnight.

It is 530 nautical miles from Ketchikan to Port Angeles and 910 nautical miles from Fairchild to Lake Havasu.

The total flight time is 13 hours, according to

The plane travels at a speed of 105 mph.

Well said Hayes had an auxiliary fuel tank.

“It’s a tried-and-true aircraft,” he said.

Before communication was lost with Hayes, he described land formations he could see and ships that were in the area, the Coast Guard said in a press release.

Well said he received the pilot’s Mayday call at 4:40 p.m. and described Strait conditions at the time as “a frothy mess.”

“He said, ‘Mayday, Mayday, I’m going down in the water,” Well recalled.

“He said, ‘I’m going down behind a boat pulling a barge,’ and then, nothing else.”

The Coast Guard and other agencies began searching the Strait that evening. Air and sea assets were deployed by the U.S. Navy, Canadian military and Good Samaritan vessels.

The weather on scene January 27 was reported to have 25 mph winds, seas 6 to 8 feet and water temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

The agencies conducted 22 search patterns over 1,170 square miles before halting their efforts that evening.

“We deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from the community of Kodiak and from friends across the country,” said Murphy and Hayes’ stepfather, Rolan Ruoss, in an email.

“We want to especially thank Jeff Well in Port Angeles for responding to his Mayday call, the U.S. Coast Guard members, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the local fishing fleet for their special efforts searching for Sean. Knowing that you were there for him makes this easier to bear.”

Forest Cobban, a close friend of Hayes, told the Mirror that Hayes’ “heart was always in that plane” and he “went out like he lived, doing what he loved to do.” 


  1. RIP..
    basic science tells us "rough seas" are created by the friction between wind and surface water. must of been brutal in the "Passage traversing the Strait around Victoria ... The biggest stretch of open water was going from Victoria to Port Angeles,”

  2. Having no vest or dry suit or raft is trouble there.

    1. that 1949 CESSNA 170A w/CONT MOTOR C145 SERIES, Horsepower: 145 was struggling. The distance between Ketchikan, AK (KTN) and Port Angeles, WA (CLM) Flight distance from Ketchikan to Port Angeles (Ketchikan International Airport – William R. Fairchild International Airport) is 611 miles / 983 kilometers / 531 nautical miles.

  3. Very unfortunate this occurred over water. A majority of the trip was either over land or within easy reach of land. Where this accident had occurred over land then a very different outcome.

    Fuel exhaustion a possibility. Carburetor ice another possibility ... for instance where he may have been reducing power in order to let down.

    Very unfortunate outcome.

  4. The unfortunate accident is another reminder to do water overflights like that at an altitude sufficient for gliding to reach land. Coming in to Port Angeles creates a passive hazard if the descent profile used for letting down defeats glide capability.

    1. Agree. I have done the long island sound water crossing from CT to Montauk NY. Its about 15-20 miles depending on exactly where you do it. I would fly it high, maintaining glide capability, and then spiral down when I was over long island.

      I had some guys at the FBO give me a hard time for circling over the airport, but my safety trumps their grievances.

      Would do the same when departing, circle over the airport climbing to over 6k and then start the crossing while still climbing.

    2. I've done the same going to Montauk, then circling up before crossing back over. Anybody who complains can go pound sand. As long as you announce your position and intentions, IMO you are good. YOU are PIC, not them. Good call.

  5. Very sad. Probably running on fumes. Couldn't land in Canada. Thought he would make it ....

    1. was he not in Canada's airspace en route?

    2. "Couldn't land in Canada."

      Of course he could land in Canada. All he had to do is declare an emergency. Even where they came back on the radio and told him not to land ... land anyway.

  6. Declare an emergency before you exhaust all options. Senseless tragedy.

  7. I saw his plane here in Ketchikan earlier that day prior to going up with a friend in his plane. Such a sad ending.

  8. It was blowing like stink that afternoon, pretty much on a headwind heading for this aircraft. The morning had been fair, but by noon it was blowing, and by 4 it was just honking. And it had been forecast to be that way days prior. I was supposed to fly in that area that day, and had decided that if I couldn't be back on the ground by 13:00 I wasn't going. I'm sorry to see this ending.

  9. I think there would be a clear disincentive to land in Canada given our current quarantine regime. Any negative information he would have had acquired about the Canada situation, perhaps from media, etc would contribute to "continuation bias" which is clearly at play here.'s an Alaskan bush pilot who never would intentionally fly into a box canyon but essentially flew himself into a situation with no "outs"...a metaphorical box canyon.

  10. his flight path would have taken him right by FHR on San Juan Island USA about 10 minutes before he ditched.