Friday, July 24, 2015

Aero Vodochody L-39C, N6175C: Accident occurred May 28, 2015 in Grand Junction, Colorado

NTSB Identification: GAA15CA096
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, May 28, 2015 in Grand Junction, CO
Aircraft: AERO VODOCHODY L39, registration: N6175C
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the pilot, while flying over a river at an altitude of about 100 feet above water and ground level, at 250 knots, the airplane impacted unmarked power line wires that spanned the river. The power line wires are clearly identified on the Visual Flight Rules Sectional Aeronautical Chart. The pilot immediately established a climb and returned to the airport without further incident. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the nose, left wing, and vertical stabilizer.

The pilot reported that there were no pre-impact mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Salt Lake City FSDO-07


The pilot who buzzed De Beque Canyon two months ago was on a non-military flight on his way to Alabama, federal officials told Mesa County officials and representatives for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

The pilot could lose his pilot certificate if an investigation warrants such a step, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot, who remained unidentified, was on a non-military ferry flight returning to the civil operator’s home base in Alabama at the time of the incident, according to officials with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The plane, an Aero L-39 Albatros, which was designed as a fighter trainer for Warsaw Pact nations, had recently been operated in support of the U.S. military, according to a report by the FAA.

Officials with the agency spoke on the telephone with Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis and a Tipton representative, and on Thursday provided them with notes from the meeting, as well as answers to some of the questions that were raised.

“The pilot held the appropriate civil authorizations to fly the aircraft and was acting in a civil aviation capacity as a commercial pilot. His employment status was not relevant to our investigation,” wrote Diane Fuller, senior adviser to the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region.

While the pilot was identified by the FAA, the passenger in the co-pilot’s seat was not, Fuller wrote.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board both are investigating the incident, Fuller wrote, noting that the FAA investigation typically takes a year.

So far, however, the FAA has concluded that “pilot competency was not a factor” in the incident.

An air-safety investigator with the NTSB said Wednesday that his report is to be released “ASAP.”

Earlier this month, the Albatros was trucked away from Grand Junction Regional Airport and taken to Gadsden, Alabama.

It had been stored at the airport since it landed safely after it sheared seven power cables in the canyon near the Colorado Highway 65 intersection.

The pilot told the Colorado State Patrol that he was eastbound up the canyon when the jet struck cables, shearing off a portion of the right wing.

Two westbound vehicles on Interstate 70 were struck by cable whipping through the air, the patrol said. Others vehicles that were eastbound also may have been struck.

The pilot pulled up out of the canyon and circled the Grand Valley for about 45 minutes, burning off fuel, before landing without further incident.

Story and comments:

The identity of the jet pilot who barreled up De Beque Canyon at 300 mph or more and sheared off seven power cables more than six weeks ago will come out in a final report this month, a federal official investigating the case said.

The final report also will identify a second person in the Aero L-39C Albatros jet, said Michael Hicks, an air-safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, on Monday.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., meanwhile, is set to inquire with the Federal Aviation Administration “to try to get a more complete accounting from the FAA of what happened and who is liable for damages,” his office said.

The jet, which lost a portion of its right wing in the collision near the confluence of the Colorado River and Plateau Creek on May 28, was broken down into several pieces and shipped from Grand Junction Regional Airport last week to Gadsden, Alabama.

“Our investigation is not complete,” Hicks said. Some details remain to be collected and the final report written before details are made public, he said.

The final report is to be reviewed by John DeLisi, director of the Office of Aviation Safety, and another accident investigator, Larry Lewis, is to approve it, Hicks said.

Tipton’s office, along with Mesa County officials, will discuss the incident next week in a conference call with FAA officials, Tipton’s office said.

Among the details to be included are the identity of a second person aboard the jet, Hicks said.

While the pilot isn’t being identified because the investigation is continuing, “I can say he was qualified to fly the aircraft,” Hicks said.

The pilot, who was interviewed by the Colorado State Patrol soon after the incident, questioned a state trooper about why the power lines were unmarked.

The towers from which the cables were strung stand 65 feet tall. Aviation regulations require that aircraft fly no lower than 500 feet above the ground.

In an interview with the State Patrol, the pilot told a trooper that he was traveling east up De Beque Canyon, looking at the Grand Valley roller dam, when he struck the cables.

He pulled up after the collision and, with much of the right wing sheared off, circled the Grand Valley to burn off fuel, then landed at Grand Junction Regional Airport, which was where he took off originally.

His passenger left immediately, the patrol said.

No state charges are being pursued by the State Patrol, and officials didn’t get the pilot’s identity.

Steve Reynolds of Glenwood Springs, whose car was damaged by the high-tension cables as they snapped, said the FAA told him his insurance company would be reimbursed for its payment to repair his car.

“By the grace of God, I’m fine and my car’s repaired and that’s all I’ve heard,” Reynolds said.

Red Bluff, California, trucker Stan Kolbert, who loaded the plane onto his flatbed to take it to Alabama, said he simply answered a call for a pickup.

The disassembled jet was an item of interest all along the trip, Kolbert said, with many motorists taking photos along the way, especially from cars with Colorado plates.

“It was probably about the coolest thing I ever hauled,” Kolbert said.

Story, comments and photo gallery:

L-39 N6175C from Matt Cawby on Vimeo.
L-39 N6175C taxi test at Paine Field May 8, 2010.

A WestStar Aviation ground crew tows an Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros aircraft across the tarmac to a hanger at Grand Junction Regional Airport on May 28.

A jet that sheared through at least one power cable in De Beque Canyon on Thursday should have been no lower than 500 feet above the Colorado River, federal rules suggest.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident, a spokesman said, noting that he couldn’t elaborate.

In addition to setting a minimum altitude for flying in “other than congested areas,” Federal Aviation Regulations also prohibit operating aircraft in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”

According to another section of the regulations, when flying over uncongested areas, pilots are required to maintain “an altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

The regulations also prohibit flying at an indicated airspeed of 250 knots, or 288 mph, at less than 10,000 feet in altitude.

The regulations list no penalties for violations of its provisions. The FAA, however, is the licensing agency for pilots.

State officials are not pursuing investigations of the incident, in which a jet that later landed safely at Grand Junction Regional Airport, cut through power cabling in De Beque Canyon near the Colorado Highway 65 exit.

One snapped cable damaged several passenger vehicles and a semi-trailer. No injuries were reported, though witnesses said the semi driver’s face was bloodied in the collision that shattered the front windshield of the truck.

The jet, an L–39C Vodochody, is owned by a Tennessee foundation and a person answering the telephone there said it had been leased to the federal government and that all questions were being referred to the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force has offered no response to inquiries about the incident.

A truck belonging to Monument Transportation was hit by a power line and dragged nearly a quarter mile along Interstate 70 near the exit to Colorado Highway 65 in De Beque Canyon around 1 p.m. Thursday.

UPDATE 2 p.m. An Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros allegedly made contact with an overhead power line near the intersection of I-70 and Colorado Highway 65, causing the line to snap, fall and break the windshields of several cars and a semitrailer traveling on I-70, according to Colorado State Patrol. The break in the line apparently caused the power to go out around 1 p.m. for about 30 people who live off Canal Road about 1 mile west of Cameo. Xcel energy is at the scene making repairs. Xcel energy estimates power will be restored shortly after 3 p.m.

UPDATE 1:49 p.m.: Pilot has landed plane safely at Grand Junction Regional Airport.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: According to scanner traffic, the plane is a Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros plane with one soul on board. The plane is at 16,000 feet and burning off fuel, according to scanner reports, and has wing damage.

12:55 p.m.: The exit along I-70 in De Beque Canyon that connects Colorado Hwy 65 is closed, and at least one lane of the interstate is shut down, on a report of debris from a plane striking a number of vehicles in the roadway.

Radio traffic indicates that a low-flying plane may have clipped a power line in the area. Emergency crews are working to free a wire from the roadway, and numerous vehicles have stopped and reported damage, according to initial reports from the scene.

Earlier radio calls indicated that debris from a plane is what the caused the vehicles to stop. Witnesses at the scene report no plane down in the area, but an effort has been launched to sweep the area from the air.

Most of the activity is near mile marker 49 along I-70, according to dispatch reports.

What is being described as a 'military style' plane over emergency dispatch traffic, made an emergency landing at Grand Junction Regional Airport Thursday afternoon "without incident" according to Amy Jordan, with the airport.

The call first came in around 1 p.m. Witnesses reported the plane hit a power line and possibly some cars in the area of the Roller Dam along Interstate 70 in the Debeque Canyon.

Witnesses reported seeing debris along the roadway and river bank from the plane's wing.

The plane, circled the area for about 20 minutes to burn off before landing at the airport and being checked out. It appears the two people on board the plane were not injured.

There are traffic impacts along I-70 as of 2 PM this afternoon, the right lane of both East and West bound have been shut down by CDOT.

The plane, is now in a private hangar on private property. The airport says they do not have the authority to show us the condition of the plane.


  1. So far, however, the FAA has concluded that “pilot competency was not a factor” in the incident. Judgement for sure !!!

  2. It seems likely that federal government is covering up DeBeque debacle.

    The “DeBeque Canyon” airplane is parked in a locked hangar at WestStar Aviation. That’s more or less general knowledge. But where (and who) are the pilot and the passenger? Big mystery still.

    That this all is a cover up by our federal government seems to be more likely every day we don’t hear from the Federal Aviation Administration or the National Transportation Safety Board or the United States Air Force. At this point, I’m not too sure I’d believe anything they say about the matter, even if it was true.

    1. I doubt you'll see this, but I worked in that hangar. I wasn't there when it landed, it was just there when I got to work, but a coworker said that the pilot and passenger got out and sprinted to a vehicle and bounced. They were apparently gone before the sheriff showed up. It was wild ot see up front, these pictures don't show but one of the wings was basically half missing, the aileron was dangling by a control cable.

  3. The NTSB Form 6120.1 has the pilot's detailed story, including being 100 feet AGL at 250 knots following the river.

    Pilot says the wires should have had marker balls. Hoo-rah!

    Docket (Includes photos of damage):

    NTSB Form 6120.1:,%20NTSB%20Form%206120.1-Redacted.PDF

    NTSB report:

  4. Interesting description of the circumstances in a court filing related to the incident. If the alleged details are accurate, the pilot's passenger was being given a demonstration, and it wasn't the only low level demo of the flight sequence.

    Brings to mind Martha Lunken flying under a bridge in 2020. Wonder if there was any action on the Tactical Advantage pilot's certs comparable to how Martha got treated after her event.

  5. Any updates on this story? It would be a relief to hear that this jokers ticket has been pulled and he is no longer putting people in danger.

  6. Shearing off a wingtip fuel tank (that presumably was full, since it was right after takeoff) while at 250 knots and 100' AGL next to road traffic represents a torpedo bomber style release event. Not a peep in the report about where that piece of it ended up or whether it was recovered.

  7. Interesting how Brian Evans omits his middle name so you have to go through a gazillion entries in the airman registry but I believe I nailed it. Those below have either no records which would mean they pulled his licenses, but I would doubt that. And the last 2 seem to have extensive experience.

    Brian Thomas Evans
    Brian John Evans
    Brian Keith Evans
    Brian William Evans

    1. In the Flight Crew Member 1 block of the NTSB Form 6120.1, he included "W" as the middle initial. Makes it easy to find the final clue:

  8. Recently a youtube short popped up that was video from the back seat of this jet. Now I cannot find it for the life of me. Wild video....they were below the treeline along the river when they hit the wire from what I could tell. You can see the tip tank go floating off to the right side of the jet towards the highway. These guys were clowns for a multitude of reasons.


    A 180 day suspension??? Unbelievable. This joker should never be allowed to operate an aircraft again.

    1. Instead of a suspension, revocation of Martha Lunken's certs was imposed due to a claim that she turned off her ADS-B while flying under a bridge. Regaining the certs required a time out period after which she could retrain to become a pilot again, as if she had never been one.

      Martha's stunt didn't include a crash or harm anyone, but she didn't run a company the government had military contracts with. Making an example out of her but not this reckless pilot was predictable within the two tier reality pf our modern experience.

    2. It is quite obvious that Martha thinks very highly of Martha. Dolts do what dolts do.....

    3. Regardless of Ms.Martha's ego; if the FAA standard of enforcement is to be judged by her sentence, this guy got off very easy. His penalty should be revisited by the FAA. He should NOT have a licence.

  10. There was no person on the planet who had a better understanding of how reckless this impromptu stunt would be than this pilot who heads a tactical training outfit.

    The severed cables struck a truck driven by a CDL holder. Try to imagine an equivalent circumstance where a CDL holder does a willful stunt in violation of standards and known risks. No chance of holding a CDL ever again.

  11. I've wondered about those 'civilian' companies operating ex military jets under contract to the government - I've seen on flightradar24 a couple of times when they allowed ads-b that they were flying well in excess of 300 kts shortly after takeoff, at about 3000' msl and climbing. Legal ?

    1. Well.... the truth is that is might be reflecting ground speed, BUT for the most part you are right and more than likely they re exceeding 250kts. Nearly 80% of the time when I am operating below 10000' my ground speed is in excess of 250 while my indicated is at or below that speed.

    2. You can request a high speed climb