FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Denver FSDO-03
Aircraft Make: BEECH
Aircraft Model: 90
Event Type: Incident
Highest Injury: None
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
AIRCRAFT, DURING PARACHUTE SKYDIVING OPERATION, ENGINE INGESTED BIRDS CAUGHT FIRE, ALL SKYDIVERS ON BOARD EXITED AND LANDED SAFELY, AIRCRAFT LANDED WITHOUT INCIDENT, COLORADO SPRINGS EAST AIRPORT, CALHAN, COLORADO.
ELLICOTT, Colo. -- An airplane carrying sky divers caught fire after taking off from Colorado Springs East Airport on Sunday. There were 11 sky divers on board, including two who were first-time jumpers. The airport is about 25 miles east of Colorado Springs near Ellicott.
A bird strike on one of the plane's propellers might have caused the fire, according to Out of the Blue Skydiving co-owner John Mahan. The plane was able to return to the airport and make a safe landing.
Mahan said he was one of the two tandem jumpers who were taking out the first-time jumpers. They were a father celebrating his 60th birthday and his son.
Mahan said the impact to the left propeller happened at about 2,600 feet. The engine caught fire and the pilot shut it down. The pilot then ordered an emergency evacuation, Mahan said.
The nine solo sky divers were out of the plane within 30 seconds. Mahan said the tandem jumpers made some extra checks on the rigging for the safety of the passengers, but they were still out within a minute of the pilot's order.
He was with the father and was the last out of the plane. Mahan said he was able to see the plane head back to the airport and saw it reach the runway but didn't see the actual landing because that was out of his view.
All 11 jumpers landed safely in an area outside of their normal landing zone, so it took them a while to figure out what road to go to for crews to find them and pick them up.
Mahan said they usually climb to an altitude of 12,000 feet before jumping, but the engine caught fire just three minutes into the flight.
The industry standard is to deploy the parachute no lower than 2,500 feet, so they were close to that when they jumped at 2,600 feet.
No injuries were reported.
Story and video: http://kdvr.com
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said at around 1:46 p.m. the pilot of the "Into the Blue Skydiving" aircraft was attempting to land at the airport after an engine had caught fire.
Officials believe a bird may have gotten into the engine, causing the fire.
Fourteen people were on board, most being clients of the skydiving company. They were all able to parachute from the plane and were later picked up by company personnel. No one was injured.
Trent Reese was on the plane when the engine went out. He said everyone heard a pop, and turned to the pilot for direction on what to do next.
"The pilot took a few seconds to assess the situation and he said 'everybody out.' And we were at a safe altitude for all of us to get out. And we all landed safely," said Reese.
Owner John Mayhan said they were three minutes into the flight when they struck the bird.
"It's an unfortunate event. Everyone is safe. We are very happy everyone is accounted for. Now we have to figure out how to mitigate the damages and get back open. Hopefully by next weekend we will be able to get back up and get flying," said Mayhan.
Mayhand said once everyone landed, it took a little while to track down all the sky divers because they were scattered in the surrounding area. He was grateful for the pilot's maneuvers under pressure.
"He did an amazing job flying the plane, and he brought it back safely," said Mayhan.
Rusty Bobby Wardlow was also in the plane when the bird struck. He was able to use his parachute, but other jumpers had to use their reserve parachutes because they were jumping too close to the ground. The skydivers normally jump at 12,000 feet but exited the plane at 2,000 feet.
"We are all skydivers. We deal with high stress situations every day. It's part of our life. So for everyone to remain calm, it's pretty normal in that kind of situation," said Wardlow.
The company hopes to have the plane fixed and reopen for business next weekend.
Story and video: http://www.krdo.com