Civil Air Patrol Survival Instructor Pilot Dies of Hypothermia

Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182Q, N97843

By Cessna Guy | AuxBeacon News Contributor

[Editor’s Note: We received an anonymous tip regarding this crash. Thank you for your contribution. This CAP plane crash in Washington was attributed to mechanical failure and later, hypothermia.]

Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182Q Crashes – Survival Instructor Pilot Dies of Hypothermia


On April 12, 1995, about 0615 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 182Q, N97843, crashed during an emergency landing, about 4 miles east of Bumping Lake, Washington. The airplane, registered to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and operated by the Washington Wing of the CAP (WACAP), sustained substantial damage. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR), cross-country flight to Boise, Idaho. The pilot’s itinerary included a proposed business meeting.

The CAP indicated the flight was a military auxiliary proficiency training flight. The Yakima County Coroner reported the pilot received minor injuries during the accident but later succumbed to hypothermia. The certificated private pilot, the sole occupant, filed a VFR flight plan to Yakima, Washington. A primary radar target was located departing the Auburn Municipal airport, Auburn, Washington, at 0502.

[James Morrison Powell died April 12, 1995 of injuries suffered in an airplane crash in the Washington Cascades. He was 29. He was born March 29, 1966, in Portland, Oregon. He was involved in computer consulting.]

At 0409, the pilot obtained a weather briefing from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Seattle Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). The pilot indicated the route of flight was from Auburn, to Yakima, Washington, with a continuation to Boise, Idaho, via Pendleton, and Baker City, Oregon. The briefing included a local field Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that the unicom radio facility at the Auburn airport was out of service. The pilot then filed his VFR flight plan to Yakima, Washington.

After departure, the pilot opened his flight plan with the Seattle AFSS at 0519. A review of primary radar data located a target at 0519 that was about 20 miles southeast of Auburn. No further communication was received from the pilot. When the pilot failed to close his flight plan, the FAA began a telephone and airport search for the airplane. About 0850, the airplane was declared overdue and an alert notice (ALNOT) was issued.

The FAA notified State of Washington, Department of Aeronautics (WADOA) personnel of the missing airplane. An aerial and ground search was initiated for the missing airplane. Poor weather conditions in the area, including low ceilings, snow, and thunderstorms, hampered search efforts. Emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signals in the area of the search were intermittent throughout the search. Search personnel did not locate any discreet transponder radar data from the airplane.

On April 15, 1995, about 1115 hours, the airplane was located about 32 miles northwest of Yakima, Washington. The location was about 4.5 miles southeast of Bumping Lake Dam in the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area on the northwest ridge of Nelson Butte.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at latitude 46 degrees, 49.37 minutes north, and longitude 121 degrees, 12.49 minutes west, about 7,100 feet mean sea level.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. The most recent third class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on July 5, 1994, and listed no limitations.

According to the WACAP, the pilot’s total aeronautical experience consisted of about 266 hours, of which 96 were accrued in the accident airplane make and model. In the preceding 90 and 30 days prior to the accident, the pilot accrued a total of 31 and 11 hours respectively.

On July 12, 1994, the pilot received a CAP Form 101T (training) authorization for search and rescue mission pilot that was signed by his unit commander. The pilot qualified to fly a CAP Cessna 182 on July 22, 1994, by completion of a check ride (CAP Form 5). The pilot received a CAP Form 101 authorization for transport mission pilot on September 21, 1994. The pilot had not completed a search and rescue mission pilot check ride (CAP Form 91).


The airplane had accumulated a total time in service of 1,583 flight hours. The most recent annual inspection was accomplished on March 31, 1995, 3 flight hours before the accident.

The engine had accrued a total time in service of 25 hours of operation since being installed as a re-manufactured engine. An annual inspection was accomplished on March 31, 1995.


A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted by the Yakima County Coroner’s Office, 128 N. Second Street, Yakima, Washington, 98901, on April 17, 1995. The examination revealed that the pilot sustained injuries that included abrasions, lacerations, and contusions. The cause of death for the pilot was attributed to hypothermia. The corner noted that the pilot was wearing a flight suit over dress clothes, flight jacket, and dress shoes. The coroner did not state a date and time of death.

A toxicological examination was conducted by the FAA’s Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) on December 1, 1995. The examination revealed that 59.00 mg/dl of acetone was detected in the urine and 24.00 mg/dl of acetone was detected in the blood. Medical personnel at CAMI indicated that the level of acetone could be attributed to the pilot being a diabetic or to fasting. The pilot was not a known diabetic.


The State of Washington mandates survival kits to be carried on airplanes used for compensation and in any rented or leased airplane. Airplanes owned by and exclusively used in the service of the U.S. government are exempt. The accident airplane, operated by the WACAP, was exempt from the requirement. The pilot had received training in survival skills and was a CAP survival skills instructor.

CAP personnel reported that he usually carried a personal survival kit in the airplane. A kit was located in the pilot’s personal vehicle at the departure airport. Several CAP aircraft have some type of survival items stored in each airplane; however, no consistent policy mandates an aircraft survival kit.

After the accident, the crash site was subjected to low temperatures and snow. Ground search personnel reported that the pilot appeared to have utilized portions of the airplane in an attempt to build a shelter. Search personnel noted that the pilot wrote several messages after the crash.

One note, hand written on paper with a date and time of April 12, 1995, 1400, indicated that he had lost engine power and crashed about 0615. It also indicated that he had been unconscious for an unspecified period of time. A hand written message was noted on the pilot’s sun visor indicating…”cabine to wes”.

A third message was noted on the rear of the front passenger seat indicating…”1700 going down hill”. A fourth message was noted on the back of the pilot’s right hand indicating…”1500 can’t see (smudge mark)”, and “to cold to (smudge mark)”.

Investigators noted that several food wrappers were located in and around the airplane along with several areas of urination. A military shovel reported to be the airplane the night before the accident was not recovered from the accident site.

A portable cellular telephone was located in the pilot’s flight suit with a cigarette lighter power adapter attached to the phone. WADOA personnel reported that the telephone antenna was broken; however, when tested after recovery by plugging into a power source and holding the antenna in place, it acquired a cellular signal. A cellular phone battery was not located in the wreckage. Cellular phone coverage existed in the area of the accident.

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