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On February 19, 2012, at 1525 mountain standard time, a Cessna 414A airplane, N4772A, impacted terrain at the Yampa Valley Airport (KHDN), Hayden, Colorado. The commercial pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and four passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Instrument meteorological conditions developed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The flight departed the Dalhart Municipal Airport (KDHT), Dalhart, Texas, approximately 1415 central standard time.
A review of air traffic control communications revealed that the pilot was cleared for the instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 10 via the initial approach fix REVME.
Airfield personnel and airfield rescue and firefighting (ARFF) provided an enhanced universal communications (UNICOM) service for inbound traffic and were monitoring both the UNICOM and Denver Center radio frequencies, at the time of the accident. Airfield personnel heard the pilot report he was on final approach over the UNICOM frequency. Airport personnel then selected the airport lights to high, and the pilot acknowledged the light status. There was no report of a distress call being made by the pilot.
In an interview with the airplane's owner, who was also a passenger, he stated the airplane was maneuvering to land at KHDN. The pilot had made two left turning circles and had begun a third circle when the he perceived that the airplane "just stalled." He added that the airplane fell straight down and impacted terrain. In addition, he recalled that the engines were running at the time of the accident. In a subsequent statement made by the owner, he stated that immediately preceding the crash, he heard a very load “pop” or “bang” from the right side of the airplane, possibly the right engine, moments before the airplane “went down.” He recalled the pilot looking to the airplane’s right and that the pilot immediately reached towards the center console near the throttle controls. Moments later, the airplane crashed.
The pilot, age 75, held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multi-engine land, airplane single engine sea, instrument airplane, and gliders. In addition, the pilot held a flight instructor certificate for airplane single engine, airplane multi-engine, instrument airplane, and gliders. The pilot was also an airframe and power-plant mechanic who would perform some maintenance tasks on the accident airplane. On March 31, 2011, the pilot was issued a second class medical certificate with the restriction to wear corrective lenses. A review of pilot training information revealed his previous flight review was on October 27, 2011, in the same make and model as the accident airplane.
The airplane was a two engine, low wing, eight seat Cessna 414, serial number 414A005, and was manufactured in 1978. It was powered by two, 310-horsepower Continental Motors TSIO-520-NB engines that drove three-bladed, variable pitch, McCauley propellers. A review of maintenance records revealed that the previous annual inspection was completed on December 8, 2011, at a total airframe time of 8,245 hours, a left engine time since major overhaul of 2,028.9 hours, a right engine time since major overhaul of 901.6 hours, and a tachometer time of 2,794.7. At the accident site, the airplane’s tachometer read 2,833.9 hours. The airplane’s published stall speed is 70 knots.
The National Weather Service Surface Analysis Chart issued at 1400 mountain standard time depicted two low pressure systems over eastern Colorado associated with a cold front moving across the Rockies and a developing warm front over eastern Colorado. Satellite imagery showed extensive cloud cover over the accident area with cloud tops near 27,000 feet. An upper air sounding taken near Grand Junction, Colorado, reported a freezing level at 5,703 feet mean sea level (msl), with conditions favorable for icing in clouds and in precipitation above the freezing level.
At 1515, an automated weather reporting facility located at KHDN reported wind from 310 at 8 knots, 5 miles visibility, few clouds at 800 feet, scattered clouds at 1,700 feet, broken ceiling at 2,900 feet, temperature -1 Celsius (C), dew point -3 C, and a barometric pressure of 29.62 inches of mercury. At 1535, wind from 290 at 10 knots gusting to 14 knots, visibility 1/4 mile, ceiling overcast at 400 feet, temperature -2 C, dew point -3 C, and a barometric pressure of 29.62 inches of mercury. This facility does not report precipitation, however conditions were favorable for the production of heavy snow.
A review of HDN’s weather observation data revealed that between 1430 and 1445, a front passed over the airfield, which shifted the wind from the east to the west and deteriorated the ceiling and visibility. Weather in the area could produce snow that continued through to the time of the accident, when the lowest visibility and ceiling was reported.
An automated weather reporting facility at the Craig-Moffat Airport (KCAG), located about 14 miles west of KHDN, could report precipitation, with the exception of freezing rain. At 1506, the station began reporting light snow with a wind shift having occurred at 1450. At 1525, it reported light snow and freezing fog. Then at 1553, moderate snow and freezing fog was reported.
Several Airmen’s Meterological Information (AIRMETs) were active for the time of the accident flight. These AIRMETs warned for IFR conditions, mountain obscuration, occasional moderate turbulence below 18,000 feet, and moderate icing between the freezing level and 18,000 feet.
AIDS TO NAVIGATION
The approach flown by the pilot was the ILS to runway 10. The inbound course was 104 degrees, with the initial approach fix (REVME) located along the localizer course at 15 nautical miles, and the final approach fix (INEDE) located along the localizer course at 8.1 nautical miles. The decision height was at 7,371 msl, with a weather requirement of an 800 foot ceiling and 2 ¾ miles visibility. The touchdown zone elevation for runway 10 was 6,591 feet msl.
A review of radar audio revealed that the pilot had checked in with Denver Center and requested a visual approach if the ceiling was greater than 1,000 feet. Denver Center replied that a previous airplane flew the ILS approach into KHDN and had broken out of the clouds at minimum altitude (800 feet). The pilot then accepted an IFR clearance and was cleared to fly the ILS approach into KHDN.
The Hayden/Yampa Valley airport (KHDN) is located approximately 2 miles southeast of Hayden, Colorado, with a field elevation of 6,606 feet and a single runway oriented along 100/280 degrees. Runway 10 had a precision approach path indicator located to the left of the runway, and had a medium intensity approach light system with runway alignment indicator lights. The airfield is non-towered so pilots utilized UNICOM to coordinate their movements on the airfield. As previously noted, ARFF provided advisories to pilots over UNICOM.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was located about 95 yards south-southwest from the edge of runway 10. The wreckage path aligned generally along a 090 degree heading. The debris path contained the left aileron and right propeller. The main wreckage came to rest facing 320 degrees. The fuselage displayed buckling and crushing throughout its length. Damage to the left and right wings was nearly symmetric. The elevator counter weights separated in a downward direction. All major airplane components were accounted for at the accident site. Flight control continuity was established from the controls to their respective surfaces. The flaps and landing gear were found in the retracted position. The airplane’s electric anti-ice and propeller anti-ice were found in the “off” position. No preimpact anomalies were detected with the airframe that would preclude normal operation of the airplane.
The engines were removed and shipped to Continental Motors Inc., Mobile, Alabama, for test runs. Under the auspices of the NTSB, both engines were placed on test beds, started, and operated throughout their power ranges. No preimpact anomalies were detected with the engines that would preclude normal engine operation.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Douglas County Coroner’s Office, Castle Rock, Colorado, as authorized by the Routt County Coroner. The autopsy noted the following findings:
Right coronary artery narrowed more than 90 percent, with evidence of recanalization.
Severe cardiomegaly, with a weight of 570 grams.
Myocardial fibrosis of the left ventricle.
The Federal Aviation Administration Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, performed forensic toxicology on specimens from the pilot. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs.
Garmin GPSmap 295
A global positioning system (GPS) was located in the cockpit area of the airplane and sent to the NTSB laboratories in Washington, D.C. A download of the device displayed the airplane’s flight path along the ILS approach. The airplane turned inside of the initial approach fix for the ILS 10 approach. During the approach, the airplane crossed through the approach course several times. The pilot crossed INEDE 260 feet below the published altitude for the final approach fix and was consistently below glide slope during the approach to the airport. Utilizing the GPS altitude, at 1523:25, the airplane was below glide slope, drifting right on the localizer approach course, and three miles from the airport, when the airplane reached the decision height of 7,331 feet msl. The airplane continued to drift to right of the localizer course while continuing to descend to an altitude of 6,591 feet msl, before it climbed to 6,824 feet, and then descended towards terrain. During this climb, the airplane’s groundspeed decreased to 78 knots.