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On July 3, 1999, approximately 1011 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-22-150, N4753A, owned and operated by the pilot, was destroyed when it collided with terrain while maneuvering 4 miles southwest of Coaldale, Colorado. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal cross-country flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated in Boulder, Colorado, approximately 0933.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot obtained a weather briefing from the Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), but did not file a flight plan. According to a friend, the pilot purchased 15.3 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline prior to departure. The friend said the pilot always kept 10 gallons of fuel in each fuel tank because he did not want to overweigh the airplane in high density altitude conditions. According to NTAP (National Track Analysis Program) data, a target was detected departing Boulder at 0933. It was tracked to the vicinity of the accident site, where it was lost from radar at 1011. N4753A was en route from Boulder, Colorado, to Center, Colorado, for the purpose of returning the passenger to her home.
On Saturday, July 11, it was noticed that the passenger's automobile was still parked in the Center Airport's parking lot. Family members made inquiries and when it was determined the airplane was missing, FAA and CAP (Civil Air Patrol) were notified. An aerial and ground search was initiated that day. No ELT (emergency locator transmitter) signals were received. With the aid of NTAP data, friends of the pilot located the wreckage the following day at the 10,350 foot level of Hayden Pass, between Coaldale and Villa Grove, Colorado.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at a location of north 38 degrees, 17.894 minutes latitude, west 105 degrees, 50.714 minutes longitude.
PERSONNEL (CREW) INFORMATION
The pilot, age 34, was born on July 10, 1964. He held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating, dated July 9, 1998. He also held a third class airman medical certificate with no restrictions or limitations, dated March 1, 1997.
A journal type ledger containing a record of the pilot's aeronautical experience was found in the wreckage. It contained entries from December 15, 1997, to June 9, 1999. According to this journal, the pilot had accumulated a total of 432 flight hours. His experience in the last 90 and 30 days and 24 hours was 17 hours, 6 hours, and 1 hour, respectively. His flight instructor and former fiancee said the pilot had a conventional logbook but it was never located.
The aircraft maintenance records were never located. However, the mechanic who performed the last annual inspection on the airplane was located in Durango, Colorado. He said his records indicated an annual inspection was completed on December 23, 1998, at a tachometer time of 318:8 hours. At that time, airframe total time was calculated to be 2,889:35 hours. A photograph taken of the tachometer at the accident site showed the numbers 0407.8 displayed.
According to weather reports for Colorado, visual meteorological conditions prevailed throughout the state. A camper confirmed this, and said there was an isolated thunderstorm late on the afternoon of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The on scene investigation commenced July 13 and terminated on July 14, 1999.
The airplane collided with trees at the 10,350 foot level of Hayden Pass (summit 11,184 feet) in a heavily forested area. All the limbs on one side of a tree were broken off, and the airplane lay at its base. Adjoining trees were untouched.
Due to the steep terrain, the wreckage was tied to trees and the remains were recovered. It was decided that the wreckage would be examined at a later date and in a controlled environment. This was done on October 21, at the facilities of Beegles Aircraft in Greeley, Colorado. All major airframe components were accounted for and identified. Flight control continuity was established. The ends of those flight and trim control cables that had not been cut the salvage company were "broomed" (i.e. the individual strands were spread apart). The elevator trim jackscrew exposed 9 threads. According to the manufacturer's representative, 0 threads equates to full nose up, 8 threads equates to neutral, and 13 threads equates to full nose down.
The fuel selector was found in the left tank position. Upon removal, the valve was functionally tested and operated satisfactorily. The forward fuselage exhibited aft crushing. The left wing bore leading edge crushing and damage consistent with tree impacts. The right wing was separated at the aileron bellcrank. The damage around the point of separation was consistent with a tree impact. There was leading edge crushing. The aileron was separated, but the flap remained attached. The empennage was intact and relatively undamaged.
Examination of the cabin area disclosed the rear bench seat had been removed. The left front seat remained attached to the floor, but the right from seat had separated. Both seats were bent upward on the right side. The left seatbelt was found unlatched at the accident site. Only the inboard right seat belt was located. Both left and right seatbelt latches bore no evidence of elongation.
Examination of the propeller revealed the blades were twisted in torsion in an "S" shape. There were chordwise and spanwise scratches on the cambered surfaces, and gouges on the leading edges. The engine was also examined. Valve train continuity was established. Thumb compression checks and magneto sparking were satisfactory.
The ELT had been removed from the airplane and was found in the pilot's hangar.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Due to the condition of the remains, autopsies were not performed. Toxicological testing was not possible. The pilot's death certificate was signed by the Fremont County coroner, and listed "massive trauma" as the cause of death.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
Using DeLorme Topo USA 2.0 (c. 1999) and Street Atlas USA (c. 1997, 1998) computer software programs, various charts and maps were created and are attached as exhibits to this report.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the pilot's insurance company on October 28, 1999.
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation include the New Piper Aircraft Corporation and Textron Lycoming.