Friday, August 19, 2016

Aero Commander SR2 Thrush, N8870Q, registered to Air Care Leasing LLC and operated by Rocky Mountain Ag Inc: Fatal accident occurred August 19, 2016 in Center, Colorado

Dusty Claunch, 27

Dusty James Claunch of Monte Vista was born December 13, 1988 to Billy & Elizabeth Claunch. Dusty went to heaven on August 19, 2016 doing on of the many things he loved (crop dusting). Dusty attended and graduated from Monte Vista High School in 2008. He later went on to become an EMT Basic, Deputy Coroner, Deputy Sheriff, farmer and Private and Commercial Pilot. Dusty enjoyed the outdoors, fishing, hunting and anything that kept him around people. His smile, passion for life and high spirits will be remembered by everyone that knew him.

“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” I believe Dusty Claunch is the true definition of this quote. Dusty accomplished anything and everything he set his mind to; and he set his mind to a lot. Just to name a few he was a combine driver, EMT, Deputy Coroner, Deputy Sheriff, Crop Duster, a Friend, Brother, Son and Grandson. He played each role to the best of his ability. He had a smile that was contagious and a laugh that brightened any room. He was so lovable he could make you smile.

August 19, 2016 will forever be a hard day to handle, but knowing Dusty he would want us to smile and think of him flying in the sky. Dusty was taken from us far too soon, but there wasn’t much that he hadn’t done. He was doing what he loved when God called him home.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Denver, Colorado 
General Electric Aviation; Cincinnati, Ohio

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Center, CO
Accident Number: CEN16FA328
Date & Time: 08/19/2016, 1053 MDT
Registration: N8870Q
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Aerodynamic stall/spin
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

On August 19, 2016, about 1053 mountain daylight time, an Aero Commander S2R airplane, N8870Q, impacted terrain near Center, Colorado, during a low-level agricultural spray flight. The commercial pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to Air Care Leasing LLC and operated by Rocky Mountain Ag under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an agricultural application flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Monte Vista Municipal Airport (MVI), Monte Vista, Colorado.

A review of the operator's agricultural application records showed that the pilot departed for his first application flight of the day at 0645. The pilot returned to base, waited while the airplane was reloaded with chemical, and departed five additional times, with the last departure about 1025. According to the pilot's cell phone records, the pilot was texting during periods of time coinciding with flight times. During the accident flight, the pilot sent text messages at 1038 and 1039 and sent a picture text message at 1053. Police dispatch records indicated that the initial call to 911 to report the accident was received at 1053.

According to witness statements, the airplane was making spray passes over a field, and the flight appeared to be "normal." One witness reported that the airplane made a turn, "pulled up to the sky," and appeared to "stall at the top of the turn." The airplane "got quiet" and then spiraled toward the ground hitting nose first.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial
Age: 27, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/19/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 10/15/2014
Flight Time: 2000 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

The pilot, age 27, held a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. According to the pilot's logbook, he had flown about 450 hours between December 4, 2013, and July 26, 2015. Of the 450 hours, 81 hours were in an Aero Commander airplane and 53 of those hours were in the accident airplane. His most recent second-class medical certificate was issued May 19, 2016, with no limitations. On the application for this medical certificate, the pilot reported about 2,000 total hours of flight experience and 600 hours in the prior 6 months. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: AERO COMMANDER
Registration: N8870Q
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1969
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Restricted
Serial Number: 1470R
Landing Gear Type: Tailwheel
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 05/21/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Turbo Prop
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Walters Engine
Engine Model/Series: M601E-11
Registered Owner: AIR CARE LEASING LLC
Rated Power: 740 hp
Operating Certificate(s) Held:
Agricultural Aircraft (137) Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: NBTG 

The 1969- model-year, single-seat, low-wing, fixed-gear airplane was designed for aerial agricultural application flights. It was powered by a Walter Engines model M601E-11 turboprop engine, serial number 894047, and equipped with an Avia V 508E-AG/106/A three-bladed propeller.

The most recent annual inspection was completed on May 21, 2016, at 11,388 hours total airframe time. The most recent 100-hour engine inspection was completed on July 16, 2016, at an hour meter reading of 4,601 hours. Maintenance records indicated that the engine was overhauled at Walter Engines on March 14, 2006. The engine was installed in the airplane on April 6, 2012, at an hour meter reading of 3,685 hours. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KALS, 7541 ft msl
Observation Time: 1052 MDT
Distance from Accident Site: 20 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 157°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C / 7°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: MONTE VISTA, CO (MVI)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: MONTE VISTA, CO (MVI)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time:
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 37.745000, -106.025833 

The airplane impacted the ground in a wheat field. Examination at the wreckage at accident site exhibited the nose section, fuselage, empennage, and landing gear were consumed by postcrash fire. About 75% of the outboard sections of both wings remained and exhibited impact damage with severe leading edge crushing along their wingspans. Following the on-scene examination, the wreckage was recovered to a secure storage facility.

On September 15, 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge and personnel from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and GE Aviation (the current owner of the Walter M601 type certificate) conducted a layout of the wreckage. Flight control continuity was established from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit area. The flight controls to the control stick could not be verified due to the extensive thermal damage to the cockpit.

The engine sustained significant impact damage and was separated from the airplane. The engine mounts and mounting ring were separated. The exhaust case and exhaust nozzles were deformed and pressed inward towards the aft end of the engine. The fuel pump, fuel control unit, and starter generator were found separated from the accessory gearbox. The accessory gearbox, fuel pump, and fuel control unit showed signs of postimpact fire.

The fuel filter was removed from the fuel pump. A trace amount of fuel was found inside the fuel pump. Two nonmagnetic, metal, deformed balls were found in the fuel filter cavity. No internal, metallic engine components showed signs of wear, spalling, or deformation that would indicate the metallic balls were from a source internal to the engine. The source of these metallic balls could not be determined.

The engine generator would not rotate. The air breather valve was found in the open condition. The power turbine (PT) blades were separated at the airfoil area, consistent with the engine producing power at impact. The first stage axial compressor blade showed signs of rubbing against the stator, consistent with the engine producing power at impact. The reduction gearbox chip detector was clear of metal chips.

The oil filter was discolored; it appeared dark with small metal debris. According to GE Aviation, the condition of the filter was consistent with normal operation of the engine.

The propeller was impact-separated from the engine propeller shaft; two of the eight propeller attachment bolts were separated with the head portions still in the engine propeller shaft. The other six bolts were found on the engine propeller flange, but the threads were sheared from the bolt shanks. The propeller shaft did not rotate. Two of the three propeller blades were separated at the hub area and bent opposite to the direction of propeller rotation, consistent with the engine producing power at the time of impact.

Medical And Pathological Information

The El Paso County Coroner, Colorado Springs, Colorado, performed an autopsy of the pilot. The cause of death for the pilot was multiple blunt force injuries, and the manner of death was accident. In addition, the pathologist noted early coronary artery disease with 10% to 25% stenosis in the right coronary artery. No other significant natural disease was identified.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology testing on samples taken from the pilot during the autopsy. The pilot's toxicology results were negative for carbon monoxide and alcohol; 0.013 ug/ml of diphenhydramine was detected in iliac blood. Diphenhydramine is a sedating antihistamine available over the counter in a number of cold and allergy products. It carries a warning about causing drowsiness, and it is commonly the active ingredient in over-the-counter sleep aids. Its therapeutic range is between 0.0250 and 0.1120 ug/ml, significantly above the amount found in this pilot.

According to the operator's agricultural application records, in the week prior to the accident, the pilot was applying a combination of agricultural spray products that included:

Warrior II - a lambda-cyhalothrin insecticide. (Side effects: minor skin irritation, facial paresthesias.)

Bravo Ultrex - a chlorothalonil fungicide. (Side effects: contact dermatitis, conjunctivitis.)

Bravo Weather Stik - a chlorothalonil fungicide. (Side effects: same as Bravo Ultrex.)

Reglone - diquat herbicide that produces pre-harvest desiccation and defoliation. (Side effects: upper respiratory irritation, fingernail changes, skin irritation, delayed wound healing, nosebleeds. May also cause parkinsonism days after exposure.)

Compradre - contains deposition aid product, drift control agent, antifoaming agent, and a defoaming agent (Side effects: skin irritation.)

Perm-Up - permethrin insecticide (Side effects: stinging, burning, paresthesias, skin irritation.)

Fertilizer finisher ("hot mix")

Hot Mix ingredients from Stone Chemical:

1 Gallon/Acre of 7-25-5

1 Gallon/Acre of Convert 0-0-3

10.66 liquid ounces of Defender 15-0-0

The pilot's family reported that the pilot, on occasions, managed the filling of the airplane's spray tank with chemicals. It is unknown what, if any, personal protective equipment he used on these occasions. According to the operator, on the day of the accident, the pilot did not mix or fill the airplane's spray tank with chemicals. The airplane was not equipped with a ventilation system. There were no reports that the pilot complained of anything or displayed any unusual behavior on the day of the accident.

Tests And Research

The airplane was equipped with a SATLOC M3 system that included a differential GPS receiver and had the capability to record historical information to an internal, compact flash card. The SATLOC M3 was sent to the NTSB's Vehicle Recorder Laboratory, in Washington, DC, for readout. However, examination of the device revealed that the unit had sustained severe heat damage that precluded recovery of any data.

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA328
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Friday, August 19, 2016 in Center, CO
Aircraft: AERO COMMANDER S2R, registration: N8870Q
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August 19, 2016, about 1155 mountain daylight time (MDT), an Aero Commander S2R, N8870Q, impacted terrain near Center, Colorado during an aerial application operation under unknown circumstances. The airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire. The commercial-rated pilot, and sole occupant onboard, was fatally injured. The airplane was registered to Air Care Leasing LLC and operated by Rocky Mountain Ag under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 as an agricultural flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, and no instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight originated at Monte Vista Municipal Airport (KMVI), Monte Vista, Colorado.

CENTER — A Monte Vista man flying a crop duster was killed when the plane went down in a barley field east of town Friday morning.

Dusty Claunch, 27, was pronounced dead at the scene, just south of Colorado 112, said Deputy Alamosa County Coroner Harry Alejo.

Alejo said witnesses reported that the plane stalled briefly upon making a turn and then crashed in the midst of its next pass over the field it was spraying.

The plane broke into flames upon crashing and ignited the barley field.

Alejo said two people pulled Claunch from the wreckage.

The fire was extinguished by fire departments from Center, Mosca and Hooper.

Claunch had spent the summer working as a pilot for a local agricultural company but was scheduled to return to his job as a deputy for the Alamosa County sheriff in the fall, according to a Colorado State Patrol news release.

He had previously worked for the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s office and was also the deputy coroner in that county, Alejo said.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been dispatched to investigate the accident.


ALAMOSA — A Monte Vista High School graduate died in a crop dusting accident Friday morning after his plane crash landed in a barley field just inside the Alamosa County line off Road 6 East and Highway 112.

The pilot, Dusty Claunch, 27, of Monte Vista, was deceased at the scene. Dusty had worked for Rio Grande Sheriff’s Office for several years and recently started working for Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office. He had taken the summer off to work for a local agricultural company as a pilot but was scheduled to go back with the sheriff’s office this fall.

According to the Colorado State Patrol, the call on the crash came into their dispatch center at 10:53 a.m. The crash landing also sparked a fire in the immediate area. The plane was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on scene. The flames from the crash also ignited the barley field that the plane had crashed into. 

Volunteer fire units from Center, Mosca-Hooper responded to the call. A CSP trooper reported the blaze was extinguished within about 15 minutes of arrival.

The Colorado State Patrol was assisted by units from the Alamosa Sheriff's Department, Rio Grande County Sheriff's Department, Saguache Sheriff's Department and the Center Police Department. The FAA and NTSB are enroute to the crash scene to conduct an investigation.


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