DEN06CA087
DEN06CA087

On June 12, 2006, approximately 1420 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-28-150, N5843W, piloted by a private pilot, was substantially damaged when it collided with terrain during an emergency off-airport landing near Antonito, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal cross-country flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. A visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed and activated. The pilot sustained minor injuries. The flight originated at Alamosa, Colorado, approximately 1400, and was en route to Chandler, Arizona.

According to the pilot's accident report, he had departed Minot, North Dakota, and had made refueling stops at Alliance, Nebraska, and Alamosa. His next refueling stop was to be St. Johns, Arizona, before continuing on to Chandler. The pilot said that after departing Alamosa, he started climbing to 10,500 feet. When he reached 10,000 feet, a "strong and persistent" downdraft forced him to land on a ridge at 9,350 feet elevation. During the landing, the right main and nose landing gears were torn off.

According to FAA documents, the pilot made a "mayday" transmission approximately 1644. The location given was on the Alamosa (ALS) 225 degree radial at 30 DME (distance measuring equipment). Shortly thereafter, several pilots reported receiving an ELT (emergency locator transmitter) signal in that area. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) launched and aerial search, and the airplane was located approximately 2127. The pilot was later rescued by helicopter and taken to a hospital for examination. The accident location was given as 37 degrees, 37.90' north latitude, and 106 degrees, 15.77 west longitude, in the Fox Creek area of Conejos County.

The pilot wrote, "When in high terrain with limited horsepower, not only does density altitude have to be considered, but also the possibility of downdrafts. Upon takeoff, I had experienced predominantly updrafts from the heat of the day but as soon as I hit rising terrain, estimated at only about a 30-degree upslope, the downdraft from the headwind was surprisingly strong. Orbiting in the vicinity of the airport to gain more altitude prior to heading into rising terrain would have been wise."

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