DFW08TA224
DFW08TA224

On August 27, 2008, about 1501 mountain daylight time, a single turbo-prop powered Air Tractor AT-802A airplane, N189LA, was substantially damaged during impact with terrain following a loss of control near Meeker, Colorado. The commercial pilot, sole occupant, received minor injuries. The airplane was registered to Minuteman Aerial Application Inc., of Missoula, Montana, and operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Department of the Interior, under an exclusive public-use firefighting contract. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the fire suppression flight. The local flight originated from the Craig-Moffat Airport (CAG), Craig, Colorado at 1429.

According to the pilot, while making a pass to drop fire retardant, the airplane's left cockpit access door opened when the airplane experienced an area of turbulence. Following a "sequence of aerodynamic evaluations...including banks, slips and skids," the pilot configured the airplane for an "approach to landing stall." Once the airplane was in an "incipient stall" he attempted to close the door to no avail.

The pilot elected to attempt another pass to jettison his remaining retardant before returning back to the airport. During the pass the airplane departed controlled flight and impacted the ground in a right wing low attitude. Flying debris impacted and damaged a fire engine while missing five fire fighters by approximately 152-feet. The airplane came to a rest in an upright position and the pilot was able to exit the airplane unassisted.

An examination of the airplane's door latch revealed no pre-impact anomalies.

Photographs provided to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC) revealed that the airplane's wings, engine, and left horizontal stabilizer were separated from the fuselage during the accident.

At 1453, the weather observing system at Meeker Colorado, located 21 nautical miles northwest from the site of the accident, reported wind from 300 degrees at 13 knots gusting to 26 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, clear of clouds, temperature 84 degrees, dew point 30 degrees, and a barometric pressure setting of 30.06 inches of Mercury.

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