About 2 Minutes Before The Accident, The Airplane Began A Gradual Right Turn To The South And Began A Descent

Location: Chitina, AK Accident Number: ANC21FA015
Date & Time: February 4, 2021, 10:51 Local Registration: N9725Z
Aircraft: Cessna 185 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter – Scheduled

On February 4, 2021, about 1051 Alaska standard time, a Cessna A185E, N9725Z, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident about 14 miles northeast of Chitina, Alaska. The commercial pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 scheduled passenger flight.

According to the director of operations of Copper Valley Air Service, the flight was a twice weekly scheduled flight with a planned route from Gulkana (PAGK) to McCarthy (PAMX) to Dan Creek, returning to PAGK. The flight departed PAGK at about 1021 destined for PAMX.

A Garmin 696 GPSMAP was recovered from the accident site, and the damaged GPS unit was shipped to the NTSB’s vehicle recorder laboratory in Washington D.C. A preliminary review of GPS data logs recovered from the unit revealed a date and time that did not correspond to the accident flight. However, a data log was discovered that corresponded to the last flight and ended near the accident location. That data log revealed that after departure, the airplane climbed to a GPS altitude of about 7,500 ft and continued on a southeast track for about 10 minutes with a groundspeed between 120 and 130 knots (kts). The data showed that, about 2 minutes before the accident, the airplane began a gradual right turn to the south and began a descent, which averaged about 859 ft per minute. The last fully recorded inflight data point was at 1050:52, when the airplane was at a GPS altitude of 5,715 ft with a groundspeed of 154 kts and on a track of 282°.

The wreckage was found scattered over mountainous tree-covered terrain northeast of Chitina on the north side of the Chitina River valley. The main wreckage included both wheel penetration skis, engine, firewall, main fuselage, instrument panel, and left wing. The debris field was about 642 ft long by about 430 ft wide and contained the separated empennage, right outboard wing, and right inboard wing.

The Airglass, Inc., model LW3600 skis remained attached to their respective attach points, and all ski arresting cables, bungees, and rigging were intact and attached to their respective attach points. No preimpact mechanical anomalies were noted with the skis or their rigging. Flight control continuity could not be established due to numerous separations in the flight control system. The wreckage has been recovered for further examination.

Two good samaritan pilots who responded to the accident site shortly after the accident reported a stratus layer of clouds in the vicinity of the accident that was moving eastward and dissipating with good visibility above and below the cloud layer with tops estimated at 4,000 to 5,000 ft above mean sea level (msl). Neither pilot reported turbulence, and one pilot who responded from PAGK reported no turbulence or significant winds aloft from the surface to 5,500 ft msl.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov