On November 11, 2008, about 1530 Mountain Standard Time, a single-engine Cessna 182, N71276, was destroyed upon impact with terrain following a loss of control while in cruise flight near Basalt, Colorado. The private pilot, the sole occupant on board the airplane, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot. A flight plan was not filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight. The 260-nautical mile planned cross-country flight originated from the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC), Denver, Colorado, with Carbon County Regional Airport (PUC), Price, Utah, as its intended destination.

The airplane was the subject of an ALNOT (alert notice) for a missing airplane and a search was initiated. The airplane was located on November 12, 2008, inside the Holy Cross Wilderness area, in rugged terrain. Due to the remote location and winter snow, the airplane was not recovered until July, 2009. Photographs taken of the accident site revealed that the airplane appeared to impact terrain at a steep angle and at a high rate of speed. The airplane's cabin area appeared extensively crushed and buckled along with the engine/propeller, and situated over a small impact crater. Both wings, along their entire span, in front of and aft of the main wing spar, displayed aft accordion crushing.

A review of the airplaneā€™s radar track showed the airplane heading westbound at an altitude of 14,800 feet. Prior to disappearing from radar at 1530, the airplane appeared to make a rapid descent.

There was no reported communication or distress calls from the accident pilot.

Prior to departure, at 0724 the pilot received a standard weather briefing from the Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). The briefing included the advisory for mountain obscuration and icing conditions over his intended route and that Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight was not recommended. Later, about 1412 the pilot contacted AFSS, and received a standard briefing, which included an advisory for mountain obscuration. The briefing also included forecasts for several locations en route which indicated VFR conditions prevailed at those locations, but with multiple layers of clouds.

At 1553, the automated weather observing system at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Sardy Field (ASE), Aspen, Colorado, (approximately 17 miles southwest of the accident site) reported calm wind, 10 miles visibility, a broken clouds at 2, 400 feet, and overcast sky at 6,000 feet, temperature 35-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 29-degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.09 inches of Mercury.

At 1553, the automated weather observing system at the Lake County Airport, Leadville, Colorado, (approximately 17 miles southeast of the accident site) reported wind 010 degrees, at 11 knots, gusting to 17 knots, 8 miles visibility in light snow, a few clouds at 2,300 feet, a ceiling broken at 3, 500 feet, and overcast sky at 4,700 feet, temperature 28-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 19-degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.07 inches of Mercury.

At 1538, the NWS Copper Mountain observation system,(located approximately 21 miles east of the accident site) reported, wind conditions at 280 degrees at 10 knots, gusting to 18 knots a quarter-mile visibility in light snow, an overcast ceiling at 200 feet, temperature 17-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 12-degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.09 inches of Mercury. At 1555, the observation system was reporting; wind at 280 degrees at 8 knots, three-quarters a mile visibility in light snow, an overcast ceiling at 200 feet, temperature 17-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 12-degrees Fahrenheit, and an altimeter setting of 30.09 inches of Mercury.

The pilot/owner held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane, single-engine land. The pilot did not possess an instrument rating. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued May 12, 2007. A review of the records indicated that the pilot purchased the airplane in May 2008. The pilot's total flight time and time in aircraft type was not determined.

An examination of the aircraft wreckage was conducted by the NTSB on November 9, 2009. Most of the airplane from the cabin area aft had disintegrated during the accident sequence. All four corners of the aircraft were accounted for. The fuselage, wings, engine, landing gear and, empennage structure were identified along with all of the control surface structures. Much of the instrument panel and gauges were destroyed; the airspeed needle indicted red line (maximum airspeed), the altimeter read 11,400 feet at a setting of 30.28. The wing flaps showed to be in the retracted position. An examination of the flight control components revealed breaks and fractures consistent with overload separation.

The engine displayed significant damage and the crankshaft could not be rotated. The engine accessories, all exhibited impact and heat damage. The engine case displayed cracking and there was a separation of the left front cylinder, all consistent with impact damage. The propeller hub remained attached to the engine crankshaft flange. The crankshaft had broken in two near the forward journal. The two propeller blades were found in the propeller hub. Both propeller blades were bent aft and deeply gouged. No pre impact anomalies where noted with the airframe or engine.

No evidence of an in-flight fire was noted with either the fuselage or engine areas.

An autopsy was performed on the pilot by, The Pathology Group, P.C., Grand Junction, Colorado, on November 14, 2008. The Medical Examiner listed the cause of death for the pilot as, "blunt force injuries."

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology test reported that ethanol was detected in the liver, muscle, kidney, brain, and heart. The test also detected diphenhydramine in the liver and kidney.

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