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On August 22, 1998, approximately 1245 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 175A, N6874E, was destroyed on impact with terrain after takeoff from Tri-County Airport, Erie, Colorado. The private pilot and two of his passengers were fatally injured; a third passenger was seriously injured. The airplane was owned/operated by the pilot under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local personal flight which was originating at the time of the accident. No flight plan had been filed.
Family members reported that the pilot flew in from the Dallas, Texas, area the day before. They further stated that the pilot was taking two of his brothers and the one brother's girlfriend for a local sight-seeing flight at the time of the accident. Witnesses reported seeing the pilot at the auto fuel pumps refueling his airplane (records indicate that he purchased 21.4 gallons of auto fuel), and then taxi to runway 15 (elevation 5,130 feet; density altitude 8,185 feet). One witness stated that "I noted that the plane appeared to be full of people and idly thought that there were a lot of people in that small plane for a hot day."
A witness reported that the airplane "seemed to go beyond the normal lift off area before becoming airborne, perhaps, 750 feet from the end of the runway." Several witnesses reported that the airplane got no higher than 50 feet to 100 feet in the air; they also said that it "wobbled and appeared to be going very slowly." One witness said that "it wasn't gaining altitude and was very flat in its path; it was wavering slightly, side to side." This witness stated that "as it neared the road, it turned to the right, the right wing dropped, and the plane nose-dived into the embankment." He further stated that "before the crash, I didn't notice any strange engine sounds--no sputtering, high pitch, or anything."
A witness sitting in his airplane, on the departure end of runway 15, reported that "the [airplane's] right wing then dropped abruptly and the plane went in to a spin, making about 1/2 turn before impacting the ground in a nose first attitude."
The pilot received his private single-engine land license on January 24, 1995, and according to a recent insurance application, he had accumulated an estimated 250 hours of flight experience by the time of the accident. This could not be verified due to the failure of locating the pilot's personal flight logbook. The pilot purchased the airplane on May 29, 1998, and had accumulated an estimated 40 hours of flight experience in it. A witness stated that they had seen the airplane, N6874E, at Tri-County Airport, within the last 4 to 6 weeks.
The airplane was a tricycle landing-geared, propeller-driven, four seat airplane which was manufactured in 1959, and was powered by a carbureted, 6 cylinder, reciprocating, geared engine rated at 175 horsepower. The last annual inspection was performed on November 7, 1997, at a total time of 2,246 hours (the airplane had a total time of 2,293 hours at the time of the accident).
On July 13, 1998, maintenance records indicated that the pilot reported a low power problem to maintenance personnel. Records also indicated that the #2 cylinder exhaust valve was found stuck open and the #4 cylinder was cracked-through near the spark plug hole. The pilot requested that all exhaust valve guides be reamed and the #4 cylinder replaced. The work was completed on August 7, 1998. A witness reported that the pilot said "since this work was done, my airplane is running stronger than ever."
At 1255, weather conditions at Jefferson County Airport, located 200 degrees and 7 nm from the accident site, were as follows: wind variable at 4 knots; visibility 80 statute miles; sky condition scattered at 8000 feet; altimeter 30.23 inches of mercury; temperature 90 degrees F.; dew point 48 degrees F. The wind condition at Jefferson County Airport at 1145 was 140 degrees for 10 knots and at 1330 the wind condition was 290 degrees for 9 knots.
A witness at Tri-County Airport reported that the outside temperature was approximately 92 degrees F. at the time of the accident. He further stated that "I noticed the wind had switched, as well as increased in strength. I would estimate the wind to be from about 300 degrees at about 12 to 18 knots. I vaguely recall the aircraft in question passing by on its takeoff roll about this time."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located approximately 850 feet beyond the departure end of runway 15 at Tri-County Airport (N40 degrees 00.006 minutes, W105 degrees 02.716 minutes) at the base of a berm on which was located Colorado Highway 7 (east-west highway). The airplane was found vertically on its nose with its empennage bent over in "scorpion" style. The leading edges of both wings had been crushed aft with the right wing tip bent upwards 45 degrees. The airplane had an approximate 320 degrees orientation.
The engine had been displaced into the cockpit area, and the engine firewall and instrument panel were wrapped around the engine. Propeller blade A was bent forward 80 degrees at the midpoint; the tip was bent forward an additional 10 degrees. Leading edge damage was present with chordwise striations and polishing. Propeller blade B was bent aft approximately 5 degrees; the tip was bent forward 10 to 20 degrees and was twisted (see attached photographs). All the airplane's flight control components were accounted for and congruency was established with each. The flaps were found down one notch (10 degrees).
Examination of the engine revealed that it had been severely damaged during the impact. The throttle was found in the full forward position and the carburetor butterfly was found full open; the mixture control was found in the full forward position. The propeller shaft housing had separated from the crankshaft and remained attached to the propeller assembly.
All major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident scene. There was no evidence of pre or postimpact fire. No preimpact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy on the pilot was performed by Dr. Patrick C. Allen, a forensic pathologist, at the McKee Medical Center, Loveland, Colorado, on August 23, 1998. Toxicological tests were performed by the Civil Aviation Medical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on September 15, 1998; test results were negative.
TEST AND RESEARCH
The manufacturer's maximum allowable takeoff weight for this airplane is 2,350 pounds. The airplane's (N6874E) maintenance records, dated April 23, 1992, indicated that the airplane's empty weight was 1,467 pounds. The takeoff gross weight at the time of the accident was calculated by the Investigator-In-Charge to be 2,400 pounds. The center of gravity location was above the chart limit, but not aft of the chart's furthest aft most limit.
Performance/configuration information did not meet chart criteria and could not be plotted.
The airplane, including all components and logbooks, was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on September 30, 1998.