HISTORY OF FLIGHT Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
On June 5, 2000, at 1417 mountain daylight time, a Cessna P206, N2577X, registered to the pilot, was destroyed when it collided with terrain while maneuvering approximately 2 miles northeast of Howard, Colorado. The commercial pilot and his passenger (spouse) were fatally injured. A pet dog was also fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a VFR flight plan had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from Gunnison, Colorado, approximately 1400.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents, the pilot telephoned the Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 1141 and filed a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan from Gunnison, Colorado, to Oakley, Kansas, and then received a standard weather briefing. According to the flight plan, 135 knots would be the true airspeed, and the initial cruising altitude would be 11,500 feet. The pilot said he would depart Gunnison at 1400, fly direct to Lamar, Colorado, then direct to Oakley. Estimated time en route was 3 hours, and there was 4 hours of fuel on board. At 1402, the pilot contacted the Denver AFSS via radio and told them he had departed Gunnison on the hour, and requested that his flight plan be activated. This was the last known contact with the airplane.
Two witnesses (husband and wife, a student and low flight time private pilot, respectively) reported seeing what they believed was the accident airplane. They were sitting on their deck when they observed an airplane flying straight and level over the ridge line northeast of their home, which is located in the town of Howard. "It looked like a Cessna 172," they said. Suddenly the airplane pitched up and went into a steep left turn (right wing up). The airplane rolled over and went into a descending spiral, "not a spin," consisting of 2 or 3 turns, and disappeared momentarily behind the mountain. It then reappeared. The engine was "laboring" as it climbed. The airplane then went into another tight left turn, rolled over, "I could see the whole bottom of the airplane," and disappeared behind the mountain. It did not reappear. The witnesses drove their ATVs (all terrain vehicles) into Sand Gulch, but did not see anything. The next day, they reported their observations to the Fremont County Sheriff's Department, and were advised that an airplane was indeed missing. The witnesses said there were "black thunderstorms clouds" to the north. Although the airplane was in close proximity to these cells, it was in an area "free of clouds." They heard no thunder and saw no lightning. Asked what time of day they saw the airplane, the witnesses said approximately 1600.
When the airplane failed to arrive at its destination, family members became concerned and alerted FAA. An information request (INREQ) was issued at 1824, and an alert notice (ALNOT) was issued at 1927. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) initiated an aerial search, and the wreckage was located approximately 1000 on June 6, 2000, at a location of 38.47446 degrees north latitude, and 105.81948 degrees west longitude.
The pilot, age 63, held a commercial pilot certificate, dated May 13, 1991, with airplane single/multiengine, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument-airplane and helicopter ratings. He also held a flight instructor certificate, dated October 1, 1979, with airplane single/multiengine ratings. His second class airman medical certificate, dated April 25, 2000, contained the limitation, "Must wear corrective lenses for distant vision, and must possess corrective lenses for near vision."
A flight logbook was found in the pilot briefcase in the wreckage. Flight times had not been carried forward or totaled. The logbook did reflect that he had taken a proficiency check in a Bell 412, as required by 14 CFR Part 135.297 (he was a retired professional helicopter pilot, formerly employed by Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.), dated September 29, 1998. According to FAA, when the pilot applied for his most recent medical certification, he estimated his total flight to be 14,500 hours, of which 25 hours were accrued during the past 6 months.
N2577X, a Cessna P206 (P, passenger), s/n P206-0077, was manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company in 1965. It was equipped with a Continental IO-520-A engine (s/n 112457R), rated at 285 horsepower, and a McCauley 3-blade, all metal constant speed propeller (m/n EZA34C73-XMN).
The aircraft maintenance records were also found in the pilot's briefcase. According to these documents, the last annual inspection was performed on April 17, 2000, at a tachometer time of 2,425.41 hours. At that time, the airframe had accrued 2,889.35 hours, and the engine had accrued 1,407.21 hours since being factory remanufactured on January 22, 1980.
The following METAR observation was recorded at Pueblo Memorial Airport (PUB), located 64 miles east of the accident site, at 1454 mdt:
Wind, 060 degrees at 7 knots; visibility, 10 sm; sky condition, clear, temperature, 28 degrees C. (81 degrees F.); dew point, 11 degrees C. (52 degrees F.); altimeter setting, 30.12 inches or mercury; remarks, A02; sea level pressure, 1013.8 millibars.
NTSB's meteorologist obtained an archived Level II doppler weather radar tape made from the WSR-88D doppler weather radar installed at Pueblo, Colorado. According to his report, "weak weather echoes" were recorded in the vicinity of the accident site between 1413:52 and 1418:54. These echoes were moving from northwest to southeast with maximum tops near 33,000 feet. In addition, photos taken by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 10 were obtained. The visible images showed cloud cover in the area of the accident site. The infrared images also showed "very cold radiative temperatures (high cloud tops). Using upper air data. . .results in a corresponding cloud top about 29,000 feet."
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane struck a large rock, head on, at the 8,166-foot level in mountainous terrain in an area called Sand Gulch. The heading was approximately 247 degrees magnetic. The slope was approximately 29 degrees. The rock was covered with oil and pieces of cowling. The airplane fell about 30 feet, coming to rest at the base of the rock. The right wing was flung over the airplane and was ahead and to the left of the airplane. The flap was ahead and to the right of the wing.
The instrument panel was destroyed, and no useful information was displayed. The fuel selector was in the BOTH position. Due to airframe fragmentation, control continuity checks were not possible. All major structural components were accounted for. A 15 inch blade stub was all that remained of the propeller assembly. It was twisted and curled, and bore leading edge gouges and chordwise scratches on the cambered surface.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
According to the Fremont County Coroner (who is also a physician), the paucity and identification of remains precluded an autopsy from being performed. Tissue samples, however, were submitted to FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute for toxicological analysis. According to CAMI's report (#200000139001), no drugs were detected, but 98 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol and 37 (mg/dL, mg/hg) acetaldehyde were detected in the spleen tissue sample. The report stated, "The ethanol found in this case may potentially be from postmortem ethanol formation and not from the ingestion of ethanol."
In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation included the Cessna Aircraft Company and Teledyne Continental Motors.
The wreckage was released to the insurance company on July 17, 2000.