The purpose of the flight was to conduct low-level aerial surveying and photography.
A review of air traffic radar data revealed that the Cessna 172 departed the airport in a southerly direction before turning west and then conducted two 360° turns. The airplane then proceeded northeast of the airport for about four miles before turning toward the southwest, overflying the intended photography area and continuing past Beach Lake.
The airplane then turned east for about two miles before the radar track terminated. The airplane was found in a densely wooded area near Chugiak, Alaska. A post-crash fire consumed a majority of the fuselage. All four souls aboard died in the accident.
Examination of the wreckage revealed upward and aft crushing of the leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer, and no scratching or gouging was found, consistent with an in-flight impact with a soft-bodied object.
An examination of a complete feather found near the first pieces of debris and samples of organic material that contained several microscopic feather barbs and barbules taken from the left side of the airplane’s fuselage and the tail section revealed that they were consistent with that of a Bald Eagle.
Given this evidence, it is likely that the airplane impacted one or more eagles in flight and that the pilot subsequently lost airplane control.
Probable cause: The in-flight collision with one or more large birds, which resulted in a loss of airplane control.
NTSB Identification: ANC16FA019
This April 2016 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.