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On April 27, 1997, at 0529 mountain daylight time a Piper PA-32, N2225A, was reported missing by family members on a flight from Jefferson County Airport (BJC), Broomfield, Colorado, to Van Nuys (VNY), California.
The flight departed BJC at 1408 on April 26, 1997, and the aircraft was found on April 30, 1997, at 1630 on the 220 degree radial of the Pueblo, Colorado, VORTAC at 35 miles. The accident site was at 10,800 feet above mean sea level (msl) on a 52 degree snow covered, forested slope. There were three persons aboard and all sustained fatal injuries. The actual time of impact is unknown.
The flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91 and no flight plan was filed. According to persons in the accident area, the local weather was cloudy with the mountain tops obscured, According to the Denver Automated Flight Service Station, a weather brief was given to the pilot followed by an update. During both briefings, the briefer informed the pilot that VFR flight was not recommended. (See attached transcripts).
Investigation into the history which lead up to the accident, provided information that on March 4, 1997, the R. W. Carpenter Company was contacted by a Mr. William Bryan Wyckoff, Jr., who contracted with the company to sell his 1979 Piper PA-32, N2225A. (See attached statement).
On March 24, 1997, Mr. Joe Schwartz, of Los Angeles, California, contacted Mr. Carpenter concerning the possibility of purchasing the aircraft. In the conversation, Mr. Schwartz said he and two other persons later identified as Jacob Rahamin, Granada Hills, California, and Joseph Rosen, North Hollywood, California, desired to send someone to examine the aircraft on their behalf.
On April 1, 1997, Mr. Ariel Weiss came to Denver Air Center, Jefferson County Airport, Broomfield, Colorado, (the airport and facility where the aircraft was housed) to examine N2225A on behalf of Mr. Schwartz and his partners. During that time, according to Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Weiss was in contact, via telephone, with people in California; however, he said they spoke a foreign language and he could understand little of what was being said. According to Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Weiss spent nearly two days examining the aircraft and aircraft records. On April 3, 1997, he spent over an hour flying the aircraft with the owner. After the flight, Mr. Weiss left saying that he was returning to California.
In his statement, Mr. Carpenter said that on April 6, 1997, "Mr. Schwartz and his two partners, Joe and Jacob, came to Denver Air Center and looked at the aircraft." "They did not wish to fly in the plane." After negotiations, according to Mr. Carpenter, a sale agreement was consummated and the new owners departed back to California, taking the aircraft keys, log books, and Pilot Operating Handbook with them.
On April 26, 1997, according to his statement, Mr. Carpenter picked up three people at Denver International Airport (DIA) at 0945. The people were Joseph Rosen, Jacob Rahamin, and another male later identified as Giora Chalamish. (Mr. Carpenter noted in his statement that the men spoke with a "heavy accent" and it was difficult for him to understand them, so learning their names etc. was difficult.) Mr. Carpenter said he took the men to Jefferson County Airport where they went to the accident aircraft, opened it up, and began looking at it. According to Mr. Carpenter's statement, after about 20 minutes they all went to Denver Air Center's club room where the financial business was completed and he gave them a bill of sale for the aircraft.
During the next two plus hours Mr. Carpenter said he stayed with them and they discussed possible routes to California. He said Mr. Chalamish contacted flight service and told him they were going to go via Laramie, Wyoming, and Salt Lake City, Utah, due to weather. According to the attached air traffic report, there were two telephone conversations with the pilot of N2225A. Both were about routing and en route weather. One conversation started at 1107 and the other at 1254.
The 1107 telephone briefing was for flight from Jefferson County Airport to Van Nuys, California, via Alamosa, Colorado, and Farmington, New Mexico. In the briefing, the weather briefer advised the pilot that VFR flight was not recommended. In the briefing, the briefer also advised the pilot that an alternate route to the north via Cheyenne, Wyoming, Laramie Wyoming, Rawlins, Wyoming, Rock Springs, Wyoming and Salt Lake City, Utah, might provide a better route. The pilot terminated the brief before it was complete and said he would call back after checking his charts.
The 1254 telephone briefing was for a flight from Jefferson County Airport to Van Nuys, via Laramie, Wyoming, Hayden, Colorado, stopping at Grand Junction, Colorado, for fuel. As part of the briefing, the briefer informed the pilot of mountain obscurement, known icing, and advised that VFR flight was not recommended. The pilot also asked for, and received, current weather for Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Pueblo, Colorado. The conversation then terminated with the pilot advising he would "call back."
Mr. Carpenter reported he left the airport prior to the departure of N2225A and heard nothing more until about 0400 the following morning, Sunday the 27th of April, when he received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as the wife of the pilot. She said "they " had not shown up in California, and she was very worried. Mr. Carpenter stated that he gave her the N number and make and model of the aircraft and she said she was going to call the FAA, which she did. At the end of his statement, Mr. Carpenter listed 5 points which he thought may be important in the investigation. They are reproduced below.
1. " These were fairly small men; 140 to 150 lbs. They only had a few small handbags with them. Overloading the aircraft, I do not feel would be a factor."
2. "They stated that the pilot was a current pilot with American Eagle Airlines who flew the Saab aircraft for a living. As to his experience in the type, make, and model aircraft, I have no idea."
3. "As to their experience flying in mountainous terrain, I have no idea.'
4. "I did observe them buying WAC charts and I believe an instrument en route chart at Denver Air Center."
5. "The weather at JEFFCO on that Saturday morning was low clouds and scuddy. By 2:00 p.m. the local weather had cleared to partly cloudy."
When the FAA was informed, they initiated their standard overdue aircraft tracing and search procedures. The aircraft was found by Civil Air Patrol airborne searchers on April 30, 1997, based on radar data. Custer County sheriff's personnel removed the occupants; however, the on-scene examination of the wreckage was not conducted until June 24, 1997, due to snow conditions at the site.
INJURIES TO PERSONS
According to the Custer County coroner, the aircraft occupants died as a result of multiple injuries associated with the aircraft accident.
DAMAGE TO AIRCRAFT
The aircraft was destroyed by impact with trees and the side of a mountain. (See attached photographs).
According to FAA records, the pilot in command, Mr. Giora Chalamish, who was occupying the right pilot seat, was issued a private pilot certificate on September 25, 1980, based on a foreign license. The certificate number was 002262930. Mr. Chalamish was issued an airline transport certificate on May 23, 1996, and his certificate number was 070603754. According to available information, he was a pilot for American Eagle Airlines. The ratings listed on his airline transport certificate were for airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land, and a commercial certificate in airplane single engine sea. He held type ratings in the SA-227, BA-3100, and the SF-340. Limits were that a second in command was required for him to pilot the SA-227.
FAA medical records provided information that Mr. Chalamish held a first class medical certificate issued February 17, 1997 with the restriction that he wear corrective lenses while exercising the privileges of his certificate. In his application for the certificate he provided information that his total flight experience was approximately 3,000 hours and that he had flown 200 hours in the previous 6 months. No pilot logs were viewed during the course of the investigation and his experience in the make and model aircraft involved in the accident is unknown.
FAA records also provided information that Mr. Jacob Rahamin, who was occupying the left pilot seat, held a private pilot certificate with a rating in single engine land, and multiengine land. He did not possess any type ratings, or an instrument rating, His certificate was issued on May 12, 1997.
No FAA records were found to indicate that Mr. Rosen held an airmen certificate. Mr. Rosen was occupying the right rear seat.
According to persons in the local area during the day on which the accident occurred, snow showers and cloud cover which obscured the mountain tops were present during the entire day. The weather reporting station closest the accident site was Pueblo, Colorado. At 1554 on April 26, 1997, the Pueblo observer reported the following weather observation at Pueblo. 4,300 scattered clouds, no ceiling, visibility 10 statute miles, altimeter 30.14 Hg, temperature 54 degrees F, dew point 34 degrees F, wind from 360 degrees magnetic heading at 13 knots with gusts to 19 knots. No precipitation was occurring at the reporting station. The accident site was 220 degrees 35 miles from the reporting station at 10,800 feet msl. The reporting station was at an elevation of 4,726 feet msl.
Attached portions of the Air Traffic Control Report provide weather data available during the briefing to the pilot before the flight departed Jefferson County Airport. The weather information the pilot received is part of the attached AFSS communications transcript.
At 1154 the Pueblo weather was a few clouds at 2,200 feet agl, scattered clouds at 2,800 feet agl, broken clouds at 3,300 feet agl, and overcast skies at 9,500 feet agl. The visibility was 8 statute miles, the altimeter setting was 30.20 hg., temperature and dew point were 45 degrees F and 36 degrees F respectively and the wind was from 240 degrees magnetic heading at 6 knots.
Known communications with the pilot of the accident aircraft consist of his two telephone conversations with the AFSS briefer and radio communications with Jefferson County Airport Air Traffic Control during taxi and takeoff. Those communications were routine. A transcript of the telephone conversations with the AFSS briefer are attached.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
According to physical evidence, the aircraft struck the side of 12,349 foot Greenhorn Mountain on a track of approximately 220 degrees at the 10,850 foot level. GPS data provided information that the accident site was at N37degrees 55.55 minutes and W105 degrees 03.25 minutes. The mountain slope was measured at 52 degrees from the horizon and at the time rescuers first arrived on scene, there was approximately 5 feet of snow cover on the pine tree covered slope.
Due to snow cover, the on scene examination was conducted on June 24, 1997, at which time the wreckage was removed by helicopter long line.
Mature pines covered the slope were the aircraft impacted. There were trees sheared off on a level plain from the impact site along a track oriented on a 040 magnetic heading. Numerous knife like cuts were present in the downed and standing portion of the damaged trees.
The aircraft impacted into a rock outcropping covered with downed timber and slid up slope approximately 5 feet. The aircraft fuselage was compressed in accordion like fashion and the empennage folded over the top of the forward fuselage. The engine/propeller were jammed in the rocks beneath the wreckage. The propeller bore leading edge damage to the blades and chord wise scratches and gouges. The propeller blades bore evidence of both forward bending and 'S' curves. The propeller hub was crushed rearward and exhibited spiral deformation opposite the direction of rotation.
Controls and instruments were examined at the site and the following was documented.
Throttle full forward Propeller control mid range Mixture one and one half inches from full rich Fuel gauges both on zero Altimeter 6,280 feet (Kolsman reading obscured) VSI 1,800 feet up Artificial horizon 10 degrees nose down, 35 degrees left wing down (face crushed) Turn and bank ball full left, turn needle inverted 10 degrees left wing down. HSI heading bug on 225 degrees, course needle centered (face crushed), heading 190 degrees RMI 255 degrees Radio altimeter 0 Magnetos both Fuel flow 32.5 gph Manifold pressure 30.5 Hg RPM 550 rpm Landing gear handle up Flap handle position destroyed Battery on Alternator on Fuel pump on Landing light on Anti-collision light on Pitot heat off
Both wings, the cabin area, and the empennage were destroyed by impact forces and there was no evidence of fire.
The wreckage was released to the insurance company's agent, Beagles Aircraft Services, on June 24, 1997. No parts were retained.