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On October 13, 2004, at 0738 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 182R, N9437H, owned by Cambridge Aviation, Inc., of Littleton, Colorado, operated by Aspen Flying Club of Englewood, Colorado, and piloted by an airline transport pilot, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain while maneuvering 2.17 miles north-northwest of Idaho Springs, Colorado. A postimpact fire ensued. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal cross-country flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated at Englewood, Colorado, at 0717, and was en route to Aspen, Colorado.
The accident pilot departed for Aspen, Colorado, in his personal vehicle on the morning of the accident. He was to depart from Aspen at approximately 0830 for a day business trip to Arizona. While en route, he experienced brake problems and returned to Denver, electing to fly to Aspen. At 0500 the pilot called FAA's Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). He asked the briefer for any reports of cloud tops in the Denver area. The briefer said that the forecast called "for the tops layered to twenty four thousand" feet. The briefer said the weather was improving in the Denver area, but weather conditions in the Aspen area were not expected to improve until later in the day. The pilot did not obtain a full weather briefing and declined a briefing on adverse weather conditions. At 0630, the pilot told a business associate his situation. He called the associate again at 0659 and told him that he was going to fly north to go around the weather. According to FAA, the airplane was reported missing when it failed to arrive in Aspen, Colorado. The Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue Team and the Civil Air Patrol initiated both ground and air searches along the route of flight. The next afternoon, at 1312, a surveyor with the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology came upon the wreckage while surveying near a mine dump. The wreckage was located approximately 100 yards east of Virginia Canyon Road (CR-281) in rising, wooded terrain.
A witness, who resided approximately 1 mile uphill from the accident site, said he heard an airplane fly overhead at the approximate time of the accident, and heard the engine "cut back" and then "power up" again. He said it sounded as if the airplane was 200 to 300 feet above the ground, flying in a southeasterly direction. The witness was unable to see the airplane due to the poor visibility, low clouds, and fog.
The pilot, age 29, held an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane multiengine land rating and commercial privileges in airplane single engine land. He was type rated in the Gulfstream G-1159, Learjet series, and the Raytheon Premier RA-390S. The pilot also held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single/multiengine and instrument ratings, and a ground instructor certificate with an advanced rating. His first class airman's medical certificate, dated January 28, 2004, contained no restrictions or limitations. When he applied for his medical certification, he reported he had accumulated 4,300 total flight hours, 325 hours of which he had accrued in the previous 6 months. According to insurance records, dated August 23, 2004, the pilot had logged approximately 4,300 total hours. He had logged approximately 52 hours in the last 90 days, 11 of which were logged in a Cessna 182. The pilot's logbook was not recovered.
N9437H (s/n 18267948), a model 182R, was manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company in 1981. It was equipped with a Continental O-470-U engine, rated at 230 horsepower, driving a McCauley 2-blade, all-metal, constant speed propeller.
The airplane was maintained under an annual/100-hour inspection program. The last 100-hour inspection was conducted on August 27, 2004, at an airframe total time of 1914.2 hours. On September 5, 2004, the airplane landed hard and the propeller struck the ground. An inspection was conducted at a tachometer time of 1930.7, and the airplane was returned to service on October 12, 2004.
According to the Clear Creek County Sheriff, at the time of the accident it was cold and there was a low overcast and occasional light snow. Weather recorded at 0736 at the Red Cliff Pass Automated Weather Observation Station (CCU AWOS), 33 nautical miles south west of the accident site, was as follows: "Wind, 360 degrees at 8 knots; visibility, less than 1/4 statute mile, light snow; sky condition, overcast 200 feet agl; temperature, minus 5 degrees C.; dew point, minus 6 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.33 inches of mercury."
Weather recorded at 0753 at Centennial (APA), Leadville (LXV), and Aspen (ASE) was as follows:
APA - Wind, 360 at 9 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; sky condition, few 1,000 feet agl, broken 2,600 feet agl, overcast 7,000 feet agl; temperature 4 degrees C.; dewpoint, 3 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.31 inches of mercury.
LXV - Wind, 350 at 5 knots; visibility, 1 statute mile, light snow, mist; sky condition, vertical visibility, 1,700 feet agl; temperature, minus 2 degrees C.; dewpoint, minus 3 degrees C.; altimeter, 30.29 inches of mercury.
ASE - Wind, calm; visibility, 9 statute miles; sky condition, scattered 2,400 feet agl, overcast 3,200 feet agl; temperature 2 degrees C.; dewpoint, 1 degree C.; altimeter, 30.28 inches of mercury.
According to a witness located approximately 1 mile north of the accident site, at the time of the accident there was fog and visibility was less than 100 feet. He said it had just stopped snowing.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The National Transportation Safety Board arrived on scene at 1530 on October 14, 2004.
The accident scene was located on the west slope of a mountain between several pine trees. The main wreckage was located at coordinates 39 degrees, 46.080 minutes north latitude, and 105 degrees, 32.29 minutes west longitude. The accident site was at an elevation of approximately 9,386 feet msl.
The debris path began with the aft portion of the right wingtip located at the top of a 60-foot tall pine tree. The tops of several surrounding trees were broken off and limbs lay on the ground below. There were more branches downhill from the initial impact point. Approximately 10 feet west and downhill from the pine tree was a ground crater approximately 5 feet in width adjacent to an outcropping of rocks. Plexiglas fragments, a propeller blade still attached to the propeller hub, fragmented cowling pieces, fiberglass fragments, and the right wing strut were found within this crater. The debris path between the ground crater and main wreckage contained Plexiglas and fiberglass fragments, the engine carburetor, rotating beacon, various engine components and hoses, and personal effects. Approximately 10 feet to the south of the ground crater was a portion of a wing flap.
Approximately 53 feet west and downhill from the ground crater was the main wreckage. The main wreckage consisted of both wings, the empennage, the engine, and the fuselage. The wreckage was charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The Hobbs meter and tachometer were destroyed. The fuel selector valve was in the OFF position. The empennage was crushed and charred by fire. The right elevator separated from the empennage, and the inboard section was charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The vertical stabilizer was crushed to the right. Control continuity was established to the tail section. The leading edge of the right wing was crushed aft in an accordion fashion. At midpoint, the wing was bent and crushed aft longitudinally. The fuel tank was compromised and the inboard portion of the wing had been charred and partially consumed by fire. Both the aileron and flap were crushed. Jackscrew measurements indicated the flaps were retracted. Right aileron control continuity was established.
The charred engine was inverted and separated from the engine mounts. Both magnetos, the carburetor, and various other engine components were separated from the engine. The propeller blade found in the crater was labeled "B" labeled for identification purposes. The blade was completely imbedded in the ground. Upon removal, the blade displayed spanwise scratches on both sides, and the blade was bent forward approximately 3 degrees. Approximately 12 inches inboard from the blade tip, there was a trailing edge indentation. Propeller blade "A" was located approximately 36 feet north of the main wreckage. The blade displayed 90-degree chordwise scratches on the cambered surface. Approximately 27 inches outboard from the hub, there was a trailing edge indentation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed at the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, October 16, 2004. The autopsy revealed no medical conditions that would have been causal or contributory to the accident. A toxicology screen was performed by the Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI Ref #200400261001). The toxicology was negative for all tests conducted.
TESTS AND RESEARCH
The wreckage was recovered to Beegles Aircraft Company in Greeley, Colorado, for further examination. On October 20, 2004, Teledyne Continental Motors examined the engine under the auspices of the NTSB. The examination revealed no anomalies that would have precluded the engine from producing power.
Parties to the investigation included Federal Aviation Administration, Cessna Aircraft, and Teledyne Continental Motors.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company on October 20, 2004.