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N73CP accident description

West Virginia map... West Virginia list
Crash location 38.100000°N, 80.600000°W
Nearest city Duo, WV
38.071228°N, 80.597586°W
2.0 miles away
Tail number N73CP
Accident date 26 Nov 1996
Aircraft type C-414(AF) Cessna 414(NTSB)
Additional details: GRAY/WHITE SCATTERED

NTSB Factual Report


On November 26, 1996, approximately 1208 eastern standard time, a Cessna 414, N73CP, was destroyed when it collided with Beech Knob Mountain during cruise flight near Duo, West Virginia. The certificated commercial pilot and one passenger, the sole occupants, sustained fatal injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was filed. The business flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91, and originated at Summersville, West Virginia (I07), approximately 1200, with an intended destination of Waynesboro, Virginia (W13).

According to Air Traffic Control (ATC) records from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot of N73CP contacted Charleston Approach Control, at 1202, and advised he was "off Summersville." In a written statement, the Charleston Tower Control Specialist reported:

"N73CP departed Summersville Airport and called me airborne VFR requesting his IFR clearance. I issued him a code and told him to maintain VFR ... I asked N73CP his on course heading (100 degrees) and then coordinated with Washington Center for his IFR clearance. I was not able to radar identify the aircraft and I lost radio contact with him before I could issue the IFR clearance."

At 1207, ATC requested an altitude report from N73CP, and received no response. Subsequent attempts to contact the airplane were unsuccessful. Attempts to identify the airplane on radar were also unsuccessful.

The Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center reported establishing radar contact with N73CP, and plotting its position two separate times before radar contact was lost. The last radar position placed the airplane at 4,100 feet in the immediate vicinity of a mountain top, 4,140 feet in height, about 14 miles southeast of the airport.

A witness reported to the West Virginia State Police:

"I was at my home on Beech Knob. The weather was snow, sleet, and heavy fog. It was so foggy, I couldn't see my bird bath out back. Between 1200 and 1205, I was in the back part of the house. At that time, it sounded as though an airplane had gone through the sound barrier. It was that loud."

According to the West Virginia State Police, the pilot had flown the route between I07 and W13 for the past 10 years approximately twice a week. The purpose of these flights was to transport the aircraft owner between places of business in Summersville, West Virginia, and Waynesboro, Virginia.

The airplane entered trees on ascending terrain. The accident occurred during the hours of daylight approximately 38 degrees 07.03 minutes north latitude, and 80 degrees 36.25 minutes west longitude.


The pilot held a Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor Certificate; both with ratings for airplane single engine land, multi-engine land, instrument airplane and rotorcraft-helicopter. He also held a Mechanic Certificate with ratings for airframe and powerplant.

His most recent FAA Second Class Medical Certificate was issued on November 8, 1996.

The pilot's logbook was not recovered. However, the pilot reported having 8,000 hours of flight experience at the time of his most recent medical exam. A copy of the pilot's resume dated September 11, 1990, reflected a total flight experience of 4,870 hours. He reported 2,720 hours of multi-engine experience, and 780 hours in actual instrument meteorological conditions.

A company log sheet discovered in the aircraft wreckage, reflected that the pilot accumulated 20.7 hours of flight time in N73CP between November 5, 1996, and November 23, 1996. Flight experience in actual instrument meteorological conditions during that period was 3.4 hours.


The pilot called the Elkins Flight Service Station, at 1017, for a weather briefing for "...Charleston, Beckley, and Shenandoah Valley." The Air Traffic Control Specialist who briefed the pilot stated:

"I replied with the requested items and the reported adverse conditions of IFR conditions, variable IFR conditions, obscuration to vision, bases and tops of obscuration, icing and gusting surface winds."

A weather observation at Beckley, West Virginia, at 1151, reported; ceiling 600 feet overcast with 6 miles visibility, wind from 340 at 11 knots gusting to 17 knots, light rain and mist.

A weather observation at Beckley, West Virginia, at 1251, reported; ceiling 600 feet overcast with 4 miles visibility, ice pellets and mist. The observation reported snow beginning and ending several times during the previous hour.

Two residents of Beech Knob reported sleet, snow, and heavy fog at the time of the accident. One witness reported to the West Virginia State Police:

"...the weather was very foggy, 20 feet visibility or less. There was ice on the trees and the wind was blowing very hard."


The airplane wreckage was examined at the accident site on November 29, 1996. From the time of the accident, to the time of examination, snow had fallen on the wreckage. The examination revealed that all major components of the airplane were accounted for at the scene. The airplane came to rest upright on an approximate magnetic heading of 100 degrees, at a ground elevation of about 3,950 feet above mean sea level (msl).

The wreckage path was identified in 1 foot increments called stations. The wreckage path was measured from the first tree impact scars, station zero, to the last piece of wreckage, an oil cooler, at station 750. Tree impact scars became progressively lower on the trees in the direction of the cabin wreckage on ascending terrain. The tree scars indicated a general direction of 100 degrees and were all at an approximate altitude of 3,950 feet msl. Several pieces of airplane cowling and sheet metal were found along the tree impact flight path.

The right propeller and spinner were found at station 285. The spinner displayed rotational damage. The left propeller was located at station 715. The propeller blades on both left and right hubs displayed similar chord-wise twisting, scratching, and bending.

The right engine was located at station 500. The engine was destroyed by impact and exhibited large cracks and holes in the crankcase. The number 6 cylinder head and piston were not attached to the engine. A cylinder head with piston inside was located at station 550. The left engine was located at station 687 and was destroyed by impact.

Several pieces of the left wing, wing flap, flap track and wing tip were found between stations 285 and 487. A section of the left wing with auxiliary fuel tank attached, was located at station 530 and showed evidence of post crash fire. The left wing tip fuel tank was discovered at station 487. A section of the right wing with auxiliary fuel tank attached was located at station 596 with evidence of post crash fire. The right wing tip fuel tank was located at station 573.

The horizontal tail was located at station 527 and displayed evidence of post crash fire. The vertical tail was found at station 587.

The cockpit and cabin areas were destroyed and disintegrated along the wreckage debris path. The largest section of the cabin came to rest at station 632. Cockpit instruments, radios, switches and controls were ejected along the wreckage path. One control wheel was at station 606. The nose landing gear was entangled in the main cabin wreckage. Examination of the cockpit area produced no useful information due to impact damage.

Evidence of post crash fire was observed along the wreckage path.


Autopsies were performed on the pilot and the passenger by Dr. Irvin M. Sopher, Chief Medical Examiner for the State of West Virginia on November 28, 1996. In the Opinion section of the Postmortem Examination Record for the pilot, the Medical Examiner states:

"Recent cocaine usage was noted upon urine toxocologic examination."

The toxicological testing report, from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed positive for drugs for the pilot. The report stated:

***0.126 (ug/ml, ug/g) Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine) detected in Liver Fluid ***0.170 (ug/ml, ug/g) Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine) detected in Kidney Fluid

In the Code of Federal Regulations, 14 CFR 91.17, it stated, "No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft ... while using any drug that affects the person's faculties in any way contrary to safety..."


The airplane wreckage was released on November 29, 1996 to Robert A. (Andy) Paul, a representative of the owner's insurance company.

NTSB Probable Cause

The pilot's inadequate inflight decision which resulted in VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions and his failure to maintain adequate terrain clearance which resulted in an inflight collision with terrain. The low ceiling was a factor.

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