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Author Topic: Fatal Accident - Northern Colorado Beech Bonanza C35  (Read 13611 times)

Offline Harris

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Fatal Accident - Northern Colorado Beech Bonanza C35
« on: January 16, 2016, 07:36:49 PM »
I was hoping my first post here would be a bit more lighthearted. Quick into. I'm an active pilot in Colorado and have long listened to LiveATC feeds. They have really helped me with my tower and ground communications.

Disclaimer: All information in this post has now been made public through various news agencies regulatory bodies.

I had an utterly sobering experience two nights ago. Was flying a cross country night flight from Grand Junction (KGJT) to Moab (KCNY) and decided to queue up Denver Center (134.5) on the radio to listen to the traffic. This is not something I would typically do when flying low altitude VFR but sometimes makes for an interesting flight. I soon realized that I was hearing the progression of a plane crash. I'll try to recall the events the best I can, I was PIC on the flight so I was multitasking quite a bit.

Almost immediately after tuning to Denver Center we heard a conversation between a single engine plane and Center. The pilot was flying in the north central Colorado area near Meeker. The pilot requested to climb to 18,000 feet to get over some weather. He was asked if he was Instrument rated and equipped and answered yes. Center cleared the pilot for a block of altitude from 17'000'-19,000' and cleared him to his destination. About 5 minutes later, Center called him back saying it looked like he was descending and turning to the north, turning and decending and making "S" Turns. The pilot was now flying at approximately 14,500'. Center told him not to descend past 11,500'. During this conversation, the pilot continued to acknowledge but not comply with Center. His voice sounded frustrated and strained, potentially disoriented (hypoxia?). Center was giving possible alternate airport of Meeker and the distance and heading but the pilot did not seem to respond. At about 11'500, Center was no longer being acknowledged by the pilot, indicating that he may have been below the radio range. Center asked an overflying commercial jet that would have been in radio line of sight to try contacting the pilot. That jet was unable to get a response. It was thought that he may have switched over to the local frequency for that area. At this point we were descending into Canyonlands and changed our radio frequency for approximately the next thirty minutes. When departing Canyonlands, we queued Center back up and they were now asking commercial pilots to "check for an ELT" (Emergency Locator Transmitter). An ELT is a required piece of equipment, hard mounted in a plane that is manually or automatically triggered in an emergency. Pilots in general were reporting that they were not hearing one. We queued up the emergency frequency to listen and sure enough we were hearing a strong ELT tone. The signal got stronger the closer to Grand Junction and higher we got. We were surprised to hear this when pilots closer to the last known position of the other pilot were not picking the signal up. My speculation is that we may have been picking up a different ELT from a different crash earlier that day, an ELT that had been accidentally enabled, or the ELT of this plane propagating off the atmosphere. We called Center and reported picking up the ELT along with our position and altitude. As we descended into the valley the ELT signal was lost and we completed our flight without hearing anything else.

Hearing this entire scenario play out live, WHILE FLYING was a surreal experience. You can hear the ATC portion of the audio in the attached mp3 file. If anyone finds full audio I would like to hear it. I wasn't recording my flight that evening unfortunately.

Here is the flight page on Flight Aware. Note the IMC conditions and See the planes rotation and steep descent starting at 7:40pm with loss of radar contact at 7:43pm. 3-4 minutes is all it takes for things to end very badly.

Here is the interesting part. The plane was previously implicated in a crime. In 2013 the plane and owner were stopped in Kansas with 43lbs of Marijuana on board! The pilot was ultimately acquitted. Note that the identity of the pilot in the crash has not released. Here is the complete story about the crash and the previous incident on Kathryn's Report.    

My speculation (and that's all it is at this time) about the cause of this crash was a combination of factors. Single Engine/Mountains/Night/IMC are not a good combination. Ever. The pilot was above 14,000' for over 1 hour and I would question if he was using and how effective his oxygen was. Conditions at the time were conducive to icing and Airmet Zulu was active for that area.  

This was a sobering and life changing experience to hear this unfold while flying. Thoughts are with the family.

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N2025D
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 10:17:15 AM by RonR »



Offline VASAviation

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Re: Fatal Accident - Northern Colorado Beech Bonanza C35
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2016, 03:16:10 PM »
You got a PM, Harris.

Thanks for sharing this!

Offline Harris

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Re: Fatal Accident - Northern Colorado Beech Bonanza C35
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2016, 11:12:39 PM »
I wanted to say thank you Ron for providing the condensed audio. It make's it convenient to listen too. I've also uploaded the full 30 minute block so users can hear how the flight progressed and how fast things happened in real time. Starts at 6:43.