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On January 30, 2010, about 1100 mountain standard time, a Maule M-6-235 airplane, N7613X, was substantially damaged when it impacted a power line near Bennett, Colorado. The airline transport certified pilot and a passenger were not injured. The personal flight was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91 without a flight plan. The planned local flight originated at Erie Municipal Airport (EIK), Erie, Colorado, about 1030 with EIK as the intended destination. The flight ended at Everitt Airport (1CO8), Parker, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
Property owners reported a downed utility line on their property on January 31, 2010. The un-powered utility line, owned by the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) of Colorado, was repaired on February 1, 2010. Repairmen reported the top of one of the utility poles was broken off and the wire had separated from several poles.
Investigators became aware of the accident when the same property owners found airplane parts on their property about six weeks after the accident and reported it to authorities. On March 18, 2010, investigators responded to the scene and found the left wingtip, left aileron, and portions of a wing spar from an airplane. Investigators located the left wing at a repair facility in Greeley, Colorado, and subsequently contacted the pilot. The rest of the airplane was found in a private hangar at 1CO8.
The pilot told investigators he was flying along a creek bed, looking for a place to land and hike, when the left wing hit what he thought was a tree limb. The pilot continued to fly and, according to the passenger, he phoned a friend who lived at 1CO8 and made arrangements to land there. After landing at 1CO8 the pilot placed the airplane in his friend’s hanger. The pilot and passenger returned to the area where they thought the impact occurred and walked for several hours looking for the airplane parts. The terrain between the point of impact and 1CO8 was privately owned open pasture and farm land.
The pilot, age 50, held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multi-engine land and Commercial Privileges for airplane single engine land. His last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate was issued in November 11, 2009, with no limitations.
A review of the pilot’s logbook showed he had accumulated 12,947 total hours, 2,041 single engine airplane hours, and 164 hours in this make and model of airplane. The pilot’s last flight review occurred on March, 25, 2009 in a Boeing 737 simulator.
The 1998-model Maule M-6-235 airplane, serial number 7498C, was a high wing single engine airplane, with fixed main landing gear and tail wheel, and was configured for four occupants. The airplane was powered by a Lycoming IO-540 engine, serial number L-23815-48A, rated at 235 horsepower, driving a Hartzell two bladed controllable pitch propeller. The airplane was equipped with “tundra” tires designed for landing on unimproved surfaces.
The last annual inspection of the airframe and engine was on March 23, 2009, at a total airframe and tachometer time of 797 hours.
Weather at Front Range Airport (FTG),Watkins, Colorado, at 1145 on the day of the accident was reported as 48 degrees Fahrenheit, 50 miles visibility, scattered clouds at 25,000 feet, and winds 100 degrees at five knots.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The debris field was located about four and a half miles south of Bennett, Colorado, about nine miles southeast of FTG, and about 17 miles northeast of 1CO8 at about 5,525 feet mean sea level (MSL).
When investigators arrived on scene on March 18, the top wire (one of four) of the unmarked utility line showed damage mid-span between two utility poles and had at least one wire strand broken. The damage to the wire was located directly above a small creek. The utility line ran east-west and crossed the creek bed perpendicularly about 30 to 40 feet above the ground. There were trees lining the north-south running creek bed, which appeared to be 30 to 60 feet tall. The band of trees followed the creek for several miles in both directions and varied in width from a few feet wide to several hundred feet wide. The terrain away from the creek bed was open pasture and rural farm land for several miles.
A left wingtip, left aileron, pieces of a red plastic lens, and portions of a wing spar and wing skin were found scattered in an area about 50 feet wide, and 200 feet long aligned on a 180 degree heading, with the northern most debris lying under the damaged utility line. The wingtip was red and white and had Maule painted on it. The airplane debris was recovered and components were matched to a damaged left wing located at Beegles Aircraft, Greeley, Colorado.
The outboard section of the rear spar was found to have separated from the wing and was about 24 inches in length. There was an approximately 2.5 inch curved indention on the bottom edge of the spar section, the center of which was seven inches inboard of the outboard end. There was a straight impact mark starting at the center of the curved indention and proceeding outboard and upward to the top, outboard end of the spar section. The angle measured from the bottom of the spar edge to the impact mark was about 30 degrees.
Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91, paragraph 13 (a) states:
Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.