On January 9, 2002, approximately 1130 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172N single-engine airplane, N3535E, sustained substantial damage after it impacted the terrain while maneuvering near Durango, Colorado. The instrument-rated commercial pilot was not injured and the two passengers sustained serious injuries. The airplane was registered to and operated by Sevenbar Aviation Group, doing business as (d.b.a.) Sevenbar Four Corners, of Farmington, New Mexico. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The local flight departed the Four Corners Regional Airport, Farmington, at 1015.

In the Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident Report (NTSB Form 6120.1/2) and in a telephone interview with an NTSB investigator, the 275-hour pilot reported that he and two friends were on a mountain sightseeing flight. The pilot reported that the airplane entered the Hermosa Drainage canyon area, "a normal okay route," which runs east/west along Purgatory Recreational Area, Purgatory, Colorado. While flying over the canyon, the pilot commented to his passengers that "the flight was proceeding exactly as I had hoped and that our airspeed and rate of climb were both exactly where I wanted them to be (80 kias and 500 fpm)." While pointing out the terrain features to his passengers, he noticed the airplane's altitude was lower than the canyon rim and the climb rate and airspeed began to decrease. After the airplane's descent rate increased, he attempted to turn the airplane around and exit the canyon. While executing a turn to the right, the stall warning horn sounded, and the pilot decided to execute a precautionary landing to a clearing. During the ensuing precautionary landing, the airplane impacted trees and the terrain. The elevation at the accident site was 9,430 feet msl.

The pilot reported that there were no anomalies with the airframe or engine during the accident flight.

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