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September 4, 2002, at 0656 mountain daylight time, a Cessna A185F, N24GS, was destroyed when it impacted terrain while maneuvering near Howard, Colorado. The commercial pilot was fatally injured, and his passenger was seriously injured. The State of Colorado's Division of Wildlife (DOW), was operating the airplane under Title 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local aerial fish stocking flight which originated approximately 20 minutes before the accident. No flight plan had been filed.
DOW employees said that the pilot was scheduled to do an aerial fish drop in Hunt Lake (elevation 11,300 feet). He departed Salida, Colorado (elevation 7,489 feet), with a fish hatchery employee as an operations observer. Flight data retrieved from an onboard GPS unit indicates that the airplane flew directly towards the lake and circled two times over Howard, Colorado, while gaining altitude. At 0652:30, the airplane was at 11,429 feet, and on a 250 degree true heading. At 0655:16, the airplane was on a 245 degree true heading and descending at approximately 360 feet per minute. The airplane impacted a ridge, approximately 90 degrees to its left, 5 to 10 seconds later. The last GPS location was approximately 350 feet from the impact site, and approximately 100 feet above it.
The injured passenger said that he remembered the flight towards Hunt Lake, but his last recollection was "Jim [the pilot] was pulling back real hard on the steering wheel." He said that when he regained consciousness he smelled fuel vapors, and he exited the airplane.
An emergency locator transmitter signal was received at approximately 0750 by other DOW pilots. The airplane was located approximately 1 hour later.
The pilot took his last second class Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight medical examination on May 1, 2002, and at that time he reported on his application that he had 7,400 hours of flight experience, with 200 hours during the last 6 months. He renewed his flight instructor's certificate on August 21, 2001. The pilot had been flying for the State of Colorado DOW for approximately 20 years.
The airplane was a single engine, propeller-driven, fixed gear, two seat airplane, which was manufactured by Cessna Aircraft Company in 1976. It was powered by a Continental IO-520-D, six cylinder, reciprocating, horizontally opposed, direct drive, air cooled, normally aspirated (carbureted) engine with a maximum takeoff rating of 300 horsepower at sea level. At a density altitude of 12,350 feet, an engine manufactures representative said it would have been capable of producing approximately 165 horsepower. Aircraft maintenance records indicate that the last annual inspection was accomplished on April 5, 2002. The airplane's tachometer and maintenance records indicated that it had accumulated approximately 9,017 hours of flight time, and the engine had approximately 570 total hours since new.
The airplane was modified with an airborne fish stocking tank, that was divided into nine compartments. Each compartment had a 5 gallon capacity; the fish were fingerlings in size. The tank held approximately 400 pounds of water, and approximately 3 to 4 pounds of fish. Each compartment could be released individually, and the best release altitude was approximately 100 feet above the water.
At 0650, the weather on Monarch Pass, Colorado, (elevation 12,030 feet) 280 degrees 22 nautical miles (nm) from the accident site, was as follows: wind 240 degrees at 19 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clear of clouds; temperature 39 degrees Fahrenheit; dew point 34 degrees Fahrenheit; altimeter setting 30.73 inches. The other three DOW pilots reported that the wind was calm at Salida, Colorado, at the time of their takeoffs. The sunrise was 0636 on the morning of the accident.
The first of the four pilots to depart Salida reported that he encountered (approximately 15 nm from Hunts Lake) a sudden wind gust of approximately 20 to 25 knots at 240 degrees when he reached 12,500 feet. The other two pilots reported encountering occasional downdrafts and wind shears, with occasional moderate turbulence between 11,500 to 12,500 feet.
The density altitude was calculated to be 12,350 feet at the accident site.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The airplane was found (N38 degrees, 23.63'; W105 degrees, 56.10'; elevation 11,662 feet) on a narrow high mountain ridge (elevation 11,662 feet). The ridge was oriented approximately 040-220 degrees, and was lightly forested with 20 to 70 foot conifers. The upper portions of several trees were found on the ground. A ground scar led to the airplane on a 130 degree heading. The airplane was found slightly inverted on its left side. The right wing's outboard 3 feet was separated, and the remainder of the wing was still in place. The left wing was nearly separated from the fuselage, and it was folded back and under the fuselage.
All of the airplane's major components were accounted for at the accident site. The flight control surfaces were all identified, and flight control cable continuity to all control surfaces could only be partially confirmed due to impact damage. The fuselage was bent and crushed, and its cabin volume was slightly reduced. The original shape of the cabin was not maintained. Both main landing gear had separated from fuselage; the tail wheel was still attached to the empennage.
The engine (with all of its accessories) was in place, but attached to the fuselage by only cables and cowling material. Engine continuity was established through the drive train; thumb compression was noted on all of the cylinders, except the number four cylinder. This cylinder was removed and metal debris was found under the intake valve. The debris matched a 1.5 inch hole in the number four cylinder intake pipe. The propeller hub assembly remained attached to the crankshaft flange. Blade 1 was bent 140 degrees toward the cambered side. It was loose in the hub. Blade 2 was twisted toward the direction of rotation. Both blades exhibited scoring, and leading edge and tip damage.
No preimpact engine or airframe anomalies, which might have affected the airplane's performance, were identified. There was no evidence of postimpact fire.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the El Paso County Coroner, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Fremont County Coroner, Salida, Colorado.
The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report (#200200241001), the blood was tested for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and drugs, with negative results. The pilot's vitreous was tested for volatiles (ethanol) with negative results.
The airplane, including all components and logbooks, was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on October 10, 2002.