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On September 15, 2006, approximately 1033 mountain daylight time, a Beech 35-C33, N5893J, piloted by a commercial pilot , was destroyed when during cruise flight the airplane impacted mountainous terrain, 9 miles southwest of Telluride, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was operating under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot and three passengers on board were fatally injured. The cross-country flight originated at Taos, New Mexico, at 0902, and was en route to Telluride.
An employee for Taos Aviation Services in Taos, New Mexico, said the airplane arrived there approximately 0830. He said the airplane pulled right up to the gas pumps. The pilot fueled the airplane. The fuel ticket from the transaction showed the pilot on loaded 56 gallons of 100 low lead gas. The time on the ticket was 0852. The employee said that he spoke with the pilot prior to them taking off. The pilot told him that they were flying up to Telluride to attend the Blues and Brews Festival. The employee asked the pilot if he'd ever flown into Telluride before. The pilot told him that he'd been into the airport about a month earlier. The employee said that he and the pilot talked about the festival and then the pilot and the three passengers got back into the airplane and left. The employee said he noticed nothing out of the ordinary with the pilot.
National Track Analysis Program (NTAP) data compiled by the Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center showed the airplane operating on a VFR (visual flight rules) Mode C transponder code of 1-2-0-0. The airplane was picked up on radar at 0941:34, approximately 38 nautical miles northwest of Taos, New Mexico, at an altitude of 13,900 feet on a 293-degree heading, tracking toward Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At 0951:29, the airplane leveled off at 15,800 feet mean sea level (msl). NTAP recorded groundspeeds en route averaged approximately 128 knots.
At 1003:10, approximately 5 miles southwest of Stevens Field (2V1), Pagosa Springs, Colorado, the airplane turned southwest on a 214-degree heading. The airplane remained on that heading for approximately 5 minutes. At 1008:26, the airplane turned west-northwest on a 306-degree heading. Between 1004:46 and 1022:02, the airplane made a gradual descent to 15,000 feet msl.
At 1025:13, the airplane began a turn toward the north and the Telluride Airport. The airplane rolled out on a 348-degree heading, and maintained 15,000 feet. At 1026:01, the airplane began a gradual descent from 15,000 feet at a descent rate of approximately 600 feet per minute. Between 1030:52 and 1031:11, the airplane descended through 14,000 feet.
At 1031:40, the airplane made a turn back to the west-northwest. The airplane was at 13,900 feet. The airplane maintained a 297-degree course toward Wilson Peak and the Lizard Head Pass area.
At 1032:34, the airplane showed level at 13,400 feet msl. At 1032:44, the airplane began a 600 foot-per-minute climb. At 1633:03, and at 13,500 feet msl, the airplane showed a descent rate of 2,000 feet per minute. The airplane's groundspeed showed an increase from 149 knots to 260 knots. At 1633:06, the airplane showed level at 13,400 feet, a vertical velocity of zero, and a groundspeed of 144 knots. At 1633:13, the airplane showed being in a 2,000 foot per minute climb and a groundspeed of 191 knots. At 1633:16, the airplane was at 13,500 feet and a groundspeed of 258 knots. The airplane's last radar contact was at 1633:25. The airplane's position was at latitude 37-degrees, 51.26 minutes north, and longitude 107-degrees, 58.45 minutes west, in the immediate vicinity of Wilson Peak, elevation 14, 246 feet (aeronautical chart depiction). At the point where radar contact was lost, NTAP data showed the airplane at an altitude of 13,500 feet.
The 27-year old pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with single-engine land, instrument airplane privileges.
The pilot held a second class medical certificate dated March 16, 2006. The certificate showed no limitations or restrictions.
A logbook showing the pilot's most recent flying time was not located. According to Federal Aviation Administration aeromedical records, at his last examination, the pilot reported having 1,500 total flying hours and 300 hours in the 6 months prior to the examination.
Two pilot logbooks were provided by the pilot's family. The logbooks covered a time period from July 2, 2003 through March 30, 2005. The logbooks showed mostly recorded time in flight simulators. The logbooks also showed recorded "second-in-command" time in a BE-55. The first entry that showed pilot-in-command time logged in an airplane was found in the first logbook and was dated October 31, 2003. As best determined from the logbooks, as of March 30, 2005, the pilot had logged 416.9 total flying hours, 285.8 hours as pilot-in-command, and 24.5 hours in actual instrument conditions. The next to last entry in the pilot's second logbook, dated March 13, 2005, showed the pilot logged 2.4 hours in the accident airplane. This was the only entry in either logbook that showed the pilot had recorded flight time in the 35-C33. No endorsements were found in either logbook.
The airplane was a 1965 Beech 35-C33 "Debonair," serial number CD-921. The most recent registration was dated December 10, 2001. The standard airworthiness certificate showed the airplane approved for operation in the utility category. The airplane was privately-owned and was being operated by a flying club for business and personal uses. The airplane was based at the Addison Airport, Addison, Texas.
Aircraft logbooks indicated the airplane was placed in service on June 18, 1965. On August 8, 1996, the airplane's original engine was replaced with a rebuilt, zero-timed, Teledyne Continental IO-550-B12-B engine, serial number 296884-R. Aircraft and engine logbooks indicated at the time of the engine installation that the total airframe time was 4,562.8 hours.
The airplane's engine was overhauled on April 12, 2006. The tachometer time reading at the engine overhaul was 2,735 hours.
An annual inspection was conducted on June 5, 2006. The tachometer time reading recorded at the annual inspection was 2,780.0 hours.
The last entries in the aircraft and engine logbooks were made on August 25, 2006, at a 100-hour inspection. The tachometer reading recorded at the inspection was 2,879.0 hours.
A 6-inch, by 12-inch black zippered notebook was recovered from the accident site. It contained maintenance squawks for the airplane. The legible pages had "RFC, Dallas, Inc." as the header. The notebook listed the airplane as N5896J and the owner as Mr. Stuart Thompson. It also listed several telephone numbers. Some of the comments that could made out from the notebook included:
- New Millennium cylinder engine put back on line.
- On a page listed as "Oil - Tach - Hobbs Time," it showed:
-- On 9/5/2006 - Member Dinham, tach time 2928.62, hobbs time 2606.6, flight time 5.8 hours.
-- On 9/13 - Member Gamron, tach time 2953.00, hobbs time 2631.3, flight time 2.3 hours.
The routine aviation weather report (METAR) at 1030 for the Telluride Regional Airport (TEX), Telluride, Colorado, 9 miles to the northeast of the accident site was ceilings 4,900 feet (above ground level ) broken, 6,500 feet overcast, visibility 10 miles with light rain, temperature 54 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 41-degrees F, winds calm, altimeter 30.08 inches, and remarks, lightning in the distance north and northwest of the airport. The field elevation at TEX is 9,078 feet mean sea level.
A Sheriff's Department supervisor said that on the day of the accident there were cloud banks all over the area.
Surface Analysis provided by the National Weather Service (NWS) showed at 0900 a weak ridge of high pressure over western Colorado.
Visible satellite imagery and infrared cloud-top radiative temperatures over southwestern Colorado showed mostly flat cloud tops with occasional cumuliform buildups. The average cloud tops were at 20,000 feet msl.
Doppler radar at Grand Junction, Colorado (KGJX WSR-88D), showed clouds and patchy level 1-2 rain/rain showers in the Telluride area. A diminishing level 3 cell was located north of Telluride. Looping of the radar imagery indicated cell movement toward the northeast. The KGJX Velocity Azimuth Display indicated a uniform wind field. Winds at and below 20,000 feet msl were from the southwest at 30 to 40 knots.
In-Flight Advisories (AIRMETs) for southwest Colorado from 0645 to 1300 were for mountain obscuration, turbulence, and occasional moderate rime/mixed icing between the freezing level and flight level 260. The freezing level in the vicinity of Telluride was 12,000 feet msl.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB investigation began on September 17, 2006, at 0825.
The accident site was located on top of Wilson Peak, a 14,017 foot mountain (USGS topographical-series chart), located approximately 9 miles southwest of Telluride, Colorado. The mountain features a steep northwest face, with a slope exceeding 50-degrees.
The initial examination of the wreckage was conducted from a helicopter. Subsequent accident scene information was derived from photographs taken by, and interviews of rescue team deputies from the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office, Telluride, Colorado. The rescue team commander stated his assessment of the crash was that the airplane impacted belly first near the summit and broke in half and then fragmented.
The accident site predominately encompassed an area approximately 1,000 feet wide, southwest to northeast, and 3,500 feet long, southeast to northwest. The accident site began on the southeast side of the mountain and extended across the summit and down the mountain's west and northwest faces.
The initial impact was on the southeast side of the mountain, approximately 30 feet short of the summit. Pieces of the airplane's bottom and forward fuselage were located at the initial impact point. The propeller and spinner were located on the summit. Two of the three propeller blades were present. One of the two blades present was broken chordwise at mid-span. The outboard portion of the blade was missing. The other blade showed torsional bending, chordwise scratches and leading edge gouges. The third blade was broken out from the hub and missing. The propeller hub and cylinder were broken open. The flange and approximately 3 inches of the crankshaft remained attached to the hub. Two of the flange mounting bolts were broken off. The crankshaft piece showed a torsional fracture where it separated from the engine. The propeller spinner was broken open and crushed aft. Pieces of clear Plexiglas consistent with the airplane's windscreen, and pieces of aluminum skin were also located on the summit. A tent and some unfurled sleeping bags were observed near the top of the west-northwest face of the summit.
On the mountain's northwest face, approximately 300 feet down from the summit, was the airplane's main wreckage. The main wreckage consisted of the airplane's cabin, aft fuselage, empennage, and inboard portion of the right wing. The cabin was broken open at the firewall and instrument panel. The cabin door was broken out. The windscreen, glare shield, and instrument panel were broken out and fragmented. The forward cabin floor was broken and crushed upward. The aft cabin was intact. The left side and aft portions of the aft cabin showed charring and melting. The aft cabin windows were broken out and fragmented. The aft fuselage was broken circumferentially at the baggage compartment. The aft fuselage was charred and melted starting at the baggage compartment, running aft to the empennage. The empennage was intact. The left horizontal stabilizer showed bends and buckling. The out board portion of the left elevator was bent upward. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator showed bends and buckling. The vertical stabilizer was intact and showed minor thermal damage on the left side. The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer. The top 1/4th of the rudder and counterweight were broken off and missing.
The airplane's inboard right wing was broken upward and bent inward at the wing root. The wing was fractured aft approximately 6 feet outboard of the root. The inboard portion of the right wing flap was attached. It was broken aft at mid-span.
A debris field extended across the summit and down the northwest face to the main wreckage. Pieces of the airplane cabin interior, seats, aluminum skin, headsets, and personal items were found in the debris field.
On the north face of the mountain, pieces of Plexiglas consistent with cabin side windows were found.
The airplane's left wing was located on the east -southeast side of the mountain approximately 200 feet down from the summit. The wing had been broken aft at the wing root, and showed a 5 foot long, 30-degree aft tear and crushing along the leading edge beginning 6 feet inboard of the wing tip and progressing aft to the center wing spar approximately 3 feet outboard of the wing root fracture. The bottom wing skin was bent and buckled aft. The left flap and aileron were intact. The aileron showed bends and buckles. The inboard edge of the flap was bent downward. The aft portion of the wing tip was crushed inward.
The outboard portion of the airplane's right wing was located approximately 2,000 feet down from the summit on the west-northwest side of the mountain.
On the east side of the peak, one of the main landing gear and a gear door were found.
A seat back was located down the northwest side of the mountain. The airplane's cabin door was located nearby.
The airplane's engine was located on the west side of the mountain near the base of the shear face. It was the piece located farthest from the initial impact point, approximately 3,000 feet.
Because of the severity of the terrain and weather conditions in the days following the accident, control continuity and systems examinations were not conducted at the accident site.
A sustained fire was confined to the left side and aft portion of the airplane. The fire originated at the left side wing root area and ran aft along the left side of the aft cabin to the aft fuselage. Most of the fuselage from the baggage compartment to the leading edges of the left and right horizontal stabilizers showed fire damage. The left side of the vertical stabilizer showed soot and heat trails consistent with a ground, post-impact fire.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The Sheriff Department's Rescue Team Commander said he observed blood and human remains along the west to northwest aspect of the peak. The female passenger was located beneath the airplane's empennage on September 17, 2006. The Commander said the female passenger's body was found frozen and that the injuries the body had sustained were consistent with instant and rapid deceleration forces. The two other passengers' bodies were found on September 19, 2006. This pilot's body was never located.
A party to the investigation was the Federal Aviation Administration.
Several attempts were made to recover the major portions of the airplane from Wilson Peak without success. Recovery efforts were hampered by the severity of the terrain and the continuing changing weather conditions. On September 4, 2007, recovery efforts were suspended indefinitely. Airplane wreckage that was recovered from the accident site was released to the owner's insurance company representative.