DEN06LA036
DEN06LA036

On January 25, 2006, approximately 1335 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172C, N1407Y, piloted by a commercial pilot, was substantially damaged when the it struck several trees during a precautionary landing on a road approximately 10 miles south-southeast of Stevens Field (2V1), Pagosa Springs, Colorado. 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 and pilot-rated passenger on board the airplane were not injured. The flight originated at Las Vegas (LVS), New Mexico, at 1030, and was en route to Pagosa Springs (2V1).

The following is based on the pilot's accident report, and telephone conversations with an FAA inspector and the insurance adjuster. The pilot had purchased the airplane in Arkansas and was ferrying it to his fixed base operation (FBO) in Richfield, Utah. En route stops were made at Amarillo, Texas, and LVS. Prior to departing LVS, the pilot discussed the weather with a friend who was then 65 miles south of 2V1. He told the pilot that the weather was clear to the north. The pilot took off from LVS and followed U.S. Highway 84. According to the insurance adjuster, his original destination was Farmington, New Mexico, or Durango, Colorado. Poor weather conditions prevented him from landing at both Durango and Farmington, so the pilot turned around and landed at privately-owned Ghost Airport adjacent to the Abiquiu Reservoir, Abiquiu, New Mexico. This airport has no service facilities. Shortly thereafter, the pilot took off and flew towards 2V1.

According to an FAA inspector in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his office received a telephone call from the New Mexico State Police, advising that one of its troopers on patrol near Chama, New Mexico (just north of Abiquiu, and between Abiquiu and 2V1), observed a single-engine, high-wing airplane, white in color, pass overhead "not more than 20 feet off the ground." When the pilot was 15 miles south of 2V1, the "weather got bad." He didn't have enough fuel to divert to Santa Fe, New Mexico, so he elected to "fly to area of VFR minimums." When the airplane was 4 miles southeast of the airport, the "weather in front of us was below class G minimums." [Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace. Pilots must remain 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above, and 2,000 feet horizontally from clouds, and have at least 1 mile day visibility, or 3 miles night visibility, when flying below 10,000 feet msl. When flying above 10,000 feet msl, pilots must remain 1,000 above and below, and 1 mile from clouds, and have at least 5 miles visibility day or night]. Because of this, the pilot decided to make a precautionary landing on a snow-covered road. The road came to a "T" and the airplane slid off the end. The left wing and propeller struck the ground and the right wing struck a tree. The right wing had leading edge compression damage outboard of the root, and the left wing leading edge was crushed near the wing tip fairing. Both propeller blades were bent.

In his report, the pilot concluded by stating, "I should have picked a spot to do a precautionary landing sooner before the weather got bad. Second, I should have called flight service to get a weather briefing, not a friend."

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