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On October 10, 1995, approximately 0740 mountain daylight time (MDT), a Cessna 172RG, N4834V, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Bayfield, Colorado. The airplane, owned and operated by Durango Air Service, Inc., was being operated as an air taxi under Title 14 CFR Part 135. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Durango, Colorado, approximately 0630 MDT.
The two passengers, outfitters who regularly conducted business with the operator, chartered the airplane and pilot to go look for elk in the mountains. The pilot of another airplane, also looking for elk, spotted the burning airplane wreckage in the Carbonate Basin, about 1/2-mile south of Miller Mountain, at the 11,130 foot level. He reported encountering smooth flying conditions at the time he found the wreckage.
According to his military logbook, the pilot came to the United States in December 1991 as a Danish Air Force cadet and began basic flight training at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, in the T-37 and, later, the T-38. His advanced flight training was completed in October 1993 in the F-16A/B. The pilot began civilian flight training at Durango Air Service in February 1995.
He was issued a private pilot certificate on April 13, 1995, a commercial certificate with instrument and multiengine ratings on June 12, 1995, and a flight instructor rating on August 2, 1995.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The top 5 feet of a pine tree was severed and its branches were found at the base of the tree along with pieces of plexiglass and the airplane's pitot tube. Another tree, with its top bent over, stood 63 feet away. The airplane was located 135 feet away on the side of the mountain. The magnetic heading from the severed tree top to the airplane was 248 degrees. The airplane rested upright on a magnetic heading of 075 degrees. In front of the airplane was an 18 inch deep crater. Extending from the crater on a heading of 023 degrees was a ground scar. At the end of this scar were pieces of a red lens.
The leading edges of both wings bore accordion type compression and fire damage. The cabin area was gutted. Control continuity was established from all flight control surfaces to the cabin area. Both propeller blades exhibited 90 degree chordwise scratch marks on the cambered surfaces.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Autopsy (report #MMH-CA-100-95) and toxicological protocols were performed on the pilot by Dr. Michael J. Benziger at the Montrose, Colorado, Memorial Hospital. Toxicological protocol was also conducted by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Toxicological findings were negative.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Pressure altitude at the accident site was computed to be 10,720 feet and the temperature, using the standard adiabatic lapse rate, was estimated at 21 degrees F. Density altitude was computed to be approximately 10,720 feet. Calculated rate of climb capability was 340 feet per minute. According to the Cessna 172RG Pilot's Operating Handbook, the airplane's service ceiling is 16,800 feet.
A Durango Air Service spokesperson stated that even though money was exchanged for services rendered, it was the company's position that the flight hade been conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91 (General Operating and Flight Rules), and was exempted from Part 135 (Air Taxi Operators and Commercial Operators) because the flight originated and was to terminate at the same airport and was conducted within a 25 statute mile radius of that airport. The exemption that the spokesperson referred to is contained in FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) 135.1(b)(2), which states, in part, "...this part does not apply to nonstop sightseeing flights that begin and end at the same airport, and are conducted within a 25 statute mile radius of that airport."
According to FAA's Flight Standards District Office in Salt Lake City, Utah, Durango Air Service holds an Air Carrier Operating Certificate, CMIA900C, but N4834V was not on the list of approved aircraft. Additionally, the pilot was qualified to serve in an air taxi capacity only as second-in-command in multiengine airplanes, his flight check having been given on July 11, 1995.
The wreckage was released to the operator's representative on October 12, 1995. Parties to the investigation included the Federal Aviation Administration and the Cessna Aircraft Company.