Saturday, October 10, 2020

Beechcraft S35 Bonanza, N4444K: Fatal accident occurred October 05, 2020 near Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX), San Miguel County, Colorado

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.

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah
Textron; Wichita, Kansas

Location: Telluride, CO 
Accident Number: CEN21FA007
Date & Time: October 5, 2020, 13:04 Local 
Registration: N4444K
Aircraft: Beech S35 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:

On October 5, 2020, about 1304 mountain daylight time, a Beech S35 airplane, N4444K, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Telluride, Colorado. The airline transport rated pilot and 1 passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to information provided by local authorities, the airplane took off on a planned VFR crosscountry flight from runway 27 at the Telluride Regional Airport (TEX). Preliminary calculations showed the airplane was about 300 pounds under maximum gross takeoff weight, which included full fuel tanks, and baggage. Preliminary ADS-B data showed a normal takeoff and climb to the west and subsequent turn to the east. There were no known radio distress calls heard from the pilot after takeoff. The estimated flight path is depicted in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1. Approximate Flight Path and Proximity of Accident Site to TEX.

Figure 2. End of Flight Track in Relation to Surrounding Terrain.

The accident site was located amidst rugged mountainous terrain, about 8 miles east of TEX. The elevation of TEX was 9,069 feet msl. The elevation of the accident site was 11,823 feet msl. The surrounding terrain to the north, east, and south was higher than the accident site elevation. The airplane wreckage showed evidence of a nearly vertical impact. Most of the forward section of the fuselage was crushed, and both wings showed impact damage across the leading edges of their spans. The wreckage was recovered and transported to a secure facility for detailed examinations of the airframe, engine, and systems.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech Registration: N4444K
Model/Series: S35 Aircraft 
Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: TEX,9078 ft msl 
Observation Time: 12:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C /-13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots / 17 knots, 260°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.49 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: Telluride, CO 
Destination: Oklahoma City, OK (PWA)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 37.914608,-107.75278

Their lives were soaring.

Costas John Sivyllis was only 30, but he was already a respected pilot for United Airlines, a first officer flying Boeing 757/767 airliners. He was well-known and a respected graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

And Lindsey Vogelaar, 33, had earned a master’s degree in international education before becoming a flight attendant for United. 

Then they met and became a couple. The two eloped in Sivyllis’ single-engine private plane nicknamed “Baby Blue,” flying to Colorado to get married in October and then honeymoon amid the Rocky Mountains. 

On October 5th, four days after getting married, the newlyweds climbed aboard the blue-and-white plane at Telluride Regional Airport to begin their trip home to the Spruce Creek Fly-In near Port Orange.

But shortly after take off, tragedy struck. The small plane crashed in the rugged San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Sivyllis and Vogelaar were both killed.

The couple's death has shocked and saddened Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Even after graduating in 2012, Sivyllis had remained very active at ERAU. He would sometimes go to campus in his United Airlines uniform to mentor student aviators about a career in the sky.

A 'Fallen Eagle'

The university mourned its “fallen eagle” at a memorial service last month. ERAU President P. Barry Butler said Sivyllis was in the stratosphere as far as his participation and dedication to Embry-Riddle, according to a video of Butler’s remarks during the memorial service on YouTube, which was provided by the university.

“Clearly, when you think about being part of this institution and being passionate, he checked that box like you wouldn’t believe,” Butler said.

In recognition of that contribution, ERAU has established a memorial scholarship fund in Sivyllis’ name. The ERAU website said $42,500 had been donated to the fund which was 170% of the $25,000 goal of the campaign which ended November 1st.

An ERAU grad named Ryan McCormick also started an online petition asking the university to rename one of its new buildings in honor of Sivyllis. As of Thursday, 5,773 people had signed the petition, which has a goal of 7,500 signatures.

Everyone seems to agree that Sivyllis had the right stuff for flying an airplane and for success.

“He was a gifted pilot with an enormous work ethic, loads of charisma and a ton of intelligence,”  Alan Stolzer, the dean of the ERAU College of Aviation, said in the video of the memorial. “He had it all. He loved the College of Aviation. He once told us that he couldn’t do enough for us given all that his professors, staff and flight instructors had done for him.”

Just three years after graduating with a major in aeronautical science and a minor in business, Sivyllis was invited in 2015 to join the College of Aviation Industry Advisory Board. Even at his young age, Sivyllis was already making an impact, the dean said.

“He added value, big time, numerous contributions, giving selflessly, talking to students about how to be successful in this industry,” Stolzer said.

Sivyllis was also praised by Marc Champion, the managing director of flight training at United Airlines. Champion said during the memorial service that he first met Sivyllis at a symposium in Orlando about eight years ago. Champion said he expected to find a seasoned pilot at the symposium and instead found the then 22-year-old Sivyllis, who at the time was a pilot for PSA Airlines, a regional carrier.

Sivyllis was “speaking passionately and eloquently about the importance of helping others and moving others closer to their dreams,” Champion said.

Champion remembered thinking then: “I want that guy flying for United Airlines: not just him, but I want about a thousand other people like him.”

Sivyllis was also chairman of the Education Committee at the Air Line Pilots Association.

Another one of Sivyllis' accomplishments was founding the ALPA ACE club or Air Line Pilots Association Aviation Collegiate Education club at ERAU, The club is sponsored by the association and brings pilots from the airline industry to talk to students about the profession. The club's slogan is "Cleared to Dream."

Since Sivyllis started the club, it has grown to chapters at other universities, said Sivyllis’ friend, Justin Solomon. 

Solomon, 30, who also spoke at the service, said he met Sivyllis when they were both freshmen at ERAU and resided in nearby dorms. 

Solomon said Sivyllis was like a brother, a best friend and a mentor. He said he knew Sivyllis was going places.

“You knew exactly what he wanted, and you knew he was the type of person to work as hard as he possibly could to get to his goals as fast as possible,” Solomon said in a phone interview.

He said that drive and determination helped Sivyllis get a job at United in 2015 at the age of 24.

“It was unheard of to be hired at his age at a major airline,” Solomon said. “He liked flying passengers. He liked all of the good things that airline travel does for the world, connecting people that live thousands of miles from each other."

Flying was not work for Sivyllis said Solomon, who is a pilot for Envoy Air, the largest regional carrier for American Airlines.

“It wasn’t a job for him. Just like it's not really for me. It’s something we do because we love doing  it,” Solomon said.

'A light of joy'

In 2016, Sivyllis found another passion in his life: Lindsey Vogelaar. They met when he was a pilot and she was a flight attendant on a United Airlines flight from the United States to England. 

“She was full of life,” Solomon said. “I’ve never seen Lindsey in a state of sadness. She was just always this beaming light of joy, and she brought out that happiness in everybody who was around her.”

Vogelaar had the flight number of the plane the pair met on engraved on the inside of his wedding band: UAL 27.

In February, Solomon, who lives in Boca Raton, said he got a surprising text from Sivyllis. He had bought an airplane, a Beechcraft Bonanza S35 V-tail. The plane, named "Baby Blue," was manufactured in 1964, according to FAA records.

The plane could hold enough people and luggage and was fast enough to make it practical for traveling, Solomon said. 

“He used that airplane a lot for the amount of time that he had it,” Solomon said.

Sivyllis used the plane to fly his bride-to-be to Colorado. Both Sivyllis and Lindsey loved the state. She was born in Denver before her family moved to Michigan. He had visited the Rocky Mountains with his father and called the mountains home. 

Sivyllis and Vogelaar took off from Spruce Creek Airport on the morning of Sept. 28 and arrived in Colorado the next day after stops along the way.

They were married in Telluride on Oct. 1 and enjoyed a honeymoon in the mountains. They hired Picturesque Photography for the elopement. Pictures show him in a light blue suit and her in a white bridal gown while she held a bouquet of flowers. They smiled with the mountains as a backdrop.

Some pictures show the couple next to Baby Blue. In one she is wearing her wedding dress sitting on the wing as he leans up against the plane next to her. In another they are inside the plane, the propeller is spinning and a handmade "Just Married" sign fills a back window for a flight they took before departing.

The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado would later tweet that the couple had been posting online about their “small wedding and adventure-filled honeymoon” for friends and family to follow.

“They were so happy and so in love on that day, And so excited to be out here celebrating,” said Wren Fasanella-Tremaine, owner of Picturesque Photography. “I’ve been doing wedding photography for almost 10 years now, met many couples, but they were pretty special.”

A normal takeoff, a tragic end

Then on October 5th, it was time for the couple to fly home.

Before they left, Fasanella-Tremaine said they offered her and her fiance, Corey Duncan, who works with her as a second photographer, an airplane ride.

“We felt totally safe and had a great flight and landed and everything was fine and gave them big hugs,” Fasanella-Tremaine said. “And they were fueling up when we left."

Fifteen minutes before taking off, Sivyllis sent a text to his friends’ chat group saying he would update them with stories once he returned, Solomon said.

The plane took off from Telluride Regional Airport in the San Juan Mountains, part of the Rocky Mountain range in southwestern Colorado.

Preliminary information showed that the plane took off normally and climbed to the west before turning to the east, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board. 

The pilot did not make any radio distress calls as far as is known, according to the NTSB. 

The plane crashed in rugged mountainous terrain at 1:04 p.m. about eight miles east of the airport, according to the NTSB. The airport's elevation was 9,069 feet while the crash site was at 11,823 feet. The land rose higher on the north, south and east around the crash site. The skies were clear and the visibility was 10 miles, according to the NTSB.

The aircraft appeared to have crashed into the ground nearly vertically with most of the front of the fuselage crushed and the leading edges of the wings showing impact damage, according to the NTSB.

The NTSB usually takes a year or two to complete an investigation and issue a report.

Solomon said he and two other friends, who were United pilots, flew to Denver to help escort the bodies back to Boston, where Sivyllis was born. 

He said he doesn’t know what could have gone wrong leading to the crash.

During the memorial service, Sivyllis’ father, Dimitris Sivyllis, spoke about how his son visited Greece as a boy and his grandfather would take him to watch 747s taking off and landing at an airport in Athens. 

The father also spoke about coaching his son in baseball when he was just 6-years-old. He said he would repeat to his son "a mantra" to “think of others.”

“I’ve always worried: Does he think of others?” the father said. “Has it taken? And the last two weeks I see that not only had it taken but it had flourished. It had grown. It had sprouted into a great big mighty tree. Wide, deep, so big I couldn’t even see it.”

He had some advice about how to remember his son.

“It’s a very simple thing. Just do what he did,” Dimitris Sivyllis said. “Love life, share the joy for life. Share the joy for aviation, share most of all what you can to help others do what they need to make their dreams come true.”

A group of friends were discussing flying cargo versus passengers, because they knew a pilot who flew cargo. 


  1. Telluride is one of the highest airports in the nation (if not THE highest), when you leave runway 9 (9,078 feet (2767 m) above sea level), there's not much room for error or mechanical problem for an pilot/aircraft. There's no where to put'er down if you have any type of issue. High altitude things such as Mixture, Carb heat, weather all are very critical. This was a pretty old plane as well. 1964 BEECH S35. CONT MOTOR IO 520 SERIES (Reciprocating)
    Horsepower: 285. Flying is expensive and you often times end up with an old plane. Not saying it had ANYTHING to do with that. Most of the time it's pilot error but I think this pilot likely did everything possible to put this plane down in a spot with the highest chance of survival but he might not have had much time at that altitude. RIP and my condolences to the families. They were not with us long enough on God's green earth. Healing takes time, it will come. Hang in there to any family / friends.

    1. Just some trivia for a little lightness.

      Here's some in the top 10 in U.S.

      10) Mackay, ID - 7,920' Copper Basin is one the highest turf-only airports in the US. The runway is only 4,700' long, it's surrounded by mountains, and summer density altitude often exceeds 10,000'.

      9) Del Norte, CO - 7,949' Mountainous terrain surrounds the airport in all directions, including several 12,000+ foot peaks

      8) Buena Vista, CO - 7,950' Central Colorado Regional airport is in the heart of Colorado's high country . Mt. Princeton (14,197') is less than 7 miles from the runway.

      7) Walden, CO - 8,154' Walden-Jackson County airport is relatively tame compared to the others on the list

      6) Granby, CO - 8,207' A 525' terrain incline 1 mile from the runway. The airport recommends only experienced pilots takeoff to the east because the ground rises so quickly.

      5) Westcliffe, CO - 8,290' Close the US Air Force Academy, which means it has intensive student training in the area.

      4) Angel Fire, NM - 8,380' Angel Fire is named after the "fiery afternoon light on the alpine peaks. Wheeler Peak (13,167') is less than 10 miles from the runway

      3) Creede, CO - 8,680' Mineral County Memorial airport has a pattern altitude of 9,500'

      2) Telluride, CO - 9,070' Not only is Telluride the second highest airport in the US, it's also in a canyon, on a mesa, and a cliff with a 1000' drop-off at the end of the runway . On an average summer day (72F, 29.92Hg), the density altitude is 13,000'.and has strong vertical turbulence in the area of mesa's edge.

      1) Leadville, CO - 9,934' Lake County airport holds high altitude honors at nearly 10,000 feet elevation (the city is over 10,000', and it's the highest city in the US). Bring your turbocharger with you, On an average summer day (72F, 29.92Hg), the density altitude is 13,000'.

      What a sad ending to the start of a new journey for this young couple.



    2. KTEX Airport Operational Statistics Aircraft based on the field: 27 Single engine airplanes: 18
      Multi engine airplanes: 3
      Jet airplanes: 4
      Helicopters: 1
      Gliders airplanes: 1     
      Aircraft operations: avg 26/day *
      100% transient general aviation
      <1% commercial*
      for 12-month period ending 02 January 2017

  2. I found the ADS-B playbacks strange and what looked like a short test flight.

  3. RIP
    Sad to hear and the fact this was a young couple at the height of their romance might make it more high profile.
    But for a CFI no less to choose such a challenging airport is mind boggling.
    We all as pilots had brushes with near misses of some sorts, as human nature is imperfect and ill suited for what birds did for eons to begin with... but ignoring DA and the fact it is so deadly is inexcusable.
    They came from Florida where all is flat and close to sea level. So no need to look any further.
    And the thing about density altitude is how easy it is to land in the typically long runways of high altitude airports... but how deadly is the low climb rate or no climb rate at all once airborne once away from ground effect on takeoff.
    Did he even bother checking the POH and the performance tables? I betcha it would indicate something of a 100-150 ft/min climb rate at best given the conditions.
    Doable but with a razor thin margin for error as mentioned in previous comments... the mixture, W&B, fuel all would need to be perfect.
    In fact if given the situation I would have elected to fly the aircraft solo, with maybe VFR min + a few gallons more, while the love of my life takes a ride to a place lower where I would join her. Just a thought in ADM.

    1. Just read all this thread recently. I have about 75 hours in the S35. It performs strongly as the GW is only 3300 compared to 3400 for later model V tails. It climbs well and has a service ceiling of around 18000 non turbo charged (according to the book. To my mind DA wasn't a factor although the poor mountain flying choices is probably the cause.

  4. Indeed something is fishy. When airlines had it good up to March of this year getting to fly for the majors was an arduous affair for most wannabes after a stint as reluctant flight instructors then a decade or 2 doing regionals for minimum wage (i.e Maybe family connections? This is also why that 1500 hrs rule after Buffalo is really BS and made to shield airlines from liabilities more than seek out talent with a side effect of a whole generation of crappy CFIs swindling people off the streets who want to fly and know not any better with poor instruction and an expensive 100+ hrs before they get their solo (true stories I see over and over again!!!) while the reluctant CFIs racks his hours.
    That might explain why this specimen, although a CFI, was really too young and too inexperienced to handle manual flying in a GA aircraft that will kill you at the slightest slip.
    One issue or too much density altitude around this most highly situated airport and things get very complicated very very quickly. And unlike big iron no plenty of power in turbine or all that automation to help you out. When you see that big hill coming at you and only 150 horses or less (assuming only 1/2 of the 285 hp of a sea level bonanza would be available with no turbo that high up) to pull out... good luck!

    1. Phoenix Arizona Pvt/Commercial ASMEL/Heli. Never flown in Colorado but this accident yells to me: 1. Turbocharger 2. Check DA and only do very early morning flights !!!!!

    2. The airlines have been dumbing down flying to allow inexperienced "magenta line autopilot" pilots to get hired. As a fair-weather pilot-factory CFI, he never really made decisions, and never mastered basic flying. But flying a 757 for a major was an easy gig: make no decisions and program the computer.

  5. Had he survived the crash he would have been charged with negligent manslaughter! And, her family would have sued him for every cent he had. These kind of pilots have no business flying in situations that exceed their abilities and killing innocent people. These are facts and the truth. I learned to fly in those mountains. That pilot did not have the experience required to fly in those mountains, which are some of the highest and most treacherous in the western United States. This pilot was in way over his head. Facts are facts ... like it or not.

    1. Hats off to your flying ability. Question: With an old non-turbo engine like that and heading off of runway 9, what would his ideal climb rate need to be if you were to average all the normal factors of that runway into this equation. I know, you can't assume tons of stats....but just guess what it might have been like to fly that particular plane off of that particular mountain as you try to ascend...what would he have seen and likely done. Again, take us through this flight if you don't mind.

    2. For the sake of easy math to get in the ball park: you are looking at roughly 4,000 feet to climb in about 8nm if you depart on RWY09. somewhere around a 4.5-5 degree climb. At 120 knots ground you are looking at 4 min to climb 4,000 feet, so a 1,000/min climb rate. At 60 knots ground, it goes down to 500/min. Would be interesting to see what the performance charts for a non-turbo bonanza are.

    3. First of all he should have circled the runway to know that he would be clear of mountains.

    4. Exactly. Get the altitude first, and approach at a 45 degree angle if possible. I flew a Cessna 150 for years in Western Colorado.

  6. Commenters seem unaware of the sightseeing flight taken an hour before the crash where they flew a circuit in the area from KTEX (link below). Pilot was made well aware of his limited climb capability as he flew that circuit.

    They got in trouble in the box canyon where Bridal Veil Falls can be photographed by air. Seems unfair to suggest that the pilot expected to cross directly out of the area via overflight of Black Bear Pass given the flight he had completed in the previous hour.

    1. Flight track shows a right turn to ‘escape’. Mountain flying always suggests a left turn for viz. of course I fly a high wing so we practice left turn. Both the 1984 video (thank you for that) and this accident the pilots choose right return escapes. ??

    2. RedBaron,
      great observation!

    3. Curious, on the sightseeing flight he went up the canyon, turned back west and climbed before heading back east. So why did he go back east into the canyon later in the day? Presumably with a heavier plane (for the xc back east)and warmer temps. Lots of questions on decision making, performance, and risk management, but they will most likely not be answered. Sad really, seems avoidable.

    4. I live in Angel Fire, New Mexico (field elevation 8,380 feet) and we practice canyon escape maneuvers pretty regularly. We usually practice with a left turn to use the high climb attitude at relatively low airspeed and the associated left-turning-tendency to help pull the plane around that turn. I have done it with an instructor several times, and the speed at which the airplane comes around going left is noticably quicker than trying to do the same maneuver to the right. There are a lot of things that need to be considered in mountain flying that most people just don't think about. I do think it would be worthwhile for the folks in Telluride to put together a video similar to this one for Angel Fire.

    5. For me, in a canyon it's more a matter of climbing on whichever side [of the canyon] might offer some ridge lift (from wind). I've turned both directions to escape a canyon that I couldn't out climb. I assume all of you will attest that the key to survival is to make that "180 degree" decision early.
      I'm retired now, but flew with this pilot a few times when he first came to our regional airline in Charlotte, NC. He was every bit as motivated, intelligent and as nice a guy as those closest to him have said in their farewell comments.
      I don't know how much satisfaction could be gleaned if the NTSB was to find a mechanical failure. Nonetheless, having "cut my [aviation] teeth" in the Western US mountains as many of you have done, I think we already know the sad truth.

    6. well sadly, he thought he was gonna make it until he didn't.

  7. All I can say is there are way too many ATP + CFI + High time killing themselves in small planes. I bet their safety record is lower than a newly minted private pilot. Complacency + being a CFI to just rack the ATP hours is no recipe for safety. I hope we get back our career CFIs someday not just young students recycled to teach by puppy mill flight schools...

  8. The aircraft looks like the flaps may have been extended as if he was trying to make an off-airport landing. Extending flaps is a technique sometimes used to permit a tighter turn to escape a box canyon.
    (See )
    Based on the flight track indicating a turn and the terrain where the accident occurred, this is likely what the pilot was performing.

  9. This link above is amazing! Thanks... and the takeaway I had is:


    Always remain in a position where you can turn toward lowering terrain.
    This axiom also encompasses the idea that you will not enter or fly in a canyon where there is not sufficient room to turn around. Another way of stating this truth is to have an escape route in mind and be in a position to exercise this option.


    Do not fly beyond the point of no return.
    This is the position when flying upslope terrain where, if you reduce the throttle to idle and begin a normal glide, you will have sufficient altitude to turn around without impacting the terrain. Flying beyond this point drives home the southern sheriff's warning, "You're in a heap of trouble, boy."

    Constantly evaluate where you are and decide if you can lose altitude before having to turn the airplane. If not, you are narrowing your options substantially.

  10. Here is a "difficult to watch video" from the cockpit (1984) accident attributed to DA and subsequent mistakes. Near a commenter's #6 - Granby, CO observation. I hope anyone seeking to enjoy the mountains out west in their non-turbo aircraft takes the time to view it.

    1. Eye opening for sure. Thank you for sharing that! Its videos like these that will linger in the back of our minds, and will help us use the right judgement.

    2. NTSB report number DEN84FA308 for anyone who wants to look up the report themselves. NTSB estimates the density altitude was about 13,000 feet, and the location of the crash was 10,200' MSL. Tail number was N4584A.

  11. I’m curious to know what the winds aloft were at the time. Any downdrafts at all, combined with a non-turbocharged aircraft, could spell disaster.

  12. YouTube has a video of N4444K when it was for sale last February. At that time it didn't have shoulder harnesses. If the plane had shoulder harnesses maybe the accident would have been survivable.

  13. Enjoy the experience of mountain flying... but get the proper flight training first.

  14. Tragic accident. That is a tricky airport that demands precision in NA airplanes. I noticed the prior sightseeing flight and its track. I am assuming that was done with partial fuel and may have influenced his confidence for the departure flight. I am also assuming he topped the tanks for the expected 514 nm flight to KPWA which was a fuel stop on the way to KTEX. There is no flight track for the KPWA to KTEX on the way out but if it was non stop the tanks would have been very light for the sightseeing flight. Depending upon how much fuel was added in KTEX, it could have made a big difference in the climb rate. It is a shame he did not turn west after departure and gain some altitude for the east bound flight.

  15. Links below have exact pinned location in Google maps where the aircraft came to a stop, plus a 2017 Ingram Basin photo view from North side that can be zoomed to see the hillside crash location.

    Look for light color of the nearby berm in the photo view and zoom in/out & rotate 360 to appreciate the area in which the turn was being made. Third link is KR photo used for location matchup verification to grey rock, round bush by grey rock, single track trails and the light colored berm. Aircraft points south in KR photo.

    Pinned map location:

    Photo from North side of Ingram Basin, with light colored berm at center:

    KR photo used to match features to pin location:

    1. The light colored berm is a mining spoil pile. A set of rails can be seen going out onto the spoil pile. The white board-shaped material seen up on the spoil pile in crash site photos is also visible in the Google maps imaging recorded prior to the crash, which makes that material mine-related debris, not aircraft debris.

      The airplane did not impact the spoil pile.

  16. An airplane engine loses 3% of its power every 1,000 feet higher in elevation.
    One ATP and one commercial pilot manage to kill themselves each year in a Cessna 150/152.

  17. Replies
    1. Photos suggest wing damage/fuel bladder breaching was underway in the impact sequence before reaching the spot where the wreckage came to rest. Aluminum wing skins and ribs don't spark. Fuel vapor will travel down slope since it is more dense than air. No fire does not always mean no fuel.

      Fueling records lookup at KTEX FBO will provide useful insight into fuel on board and estimated weight at takeoff.

  18. Could not make much of this report. Seems the responders were more interested in documenting themselves and their gear. Love the flashing lights as they stand around gabbing. The Beech had the performance, seems poor flight planning.

  19. I call a probable cause of "The pilot's exceedance of the aircraft's critical angle of attack during a flight in high density altitude conditions and maneuvering in mountainous terrain which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and subsequent impact with terrain."
    Later in the day = hotter.
    Also loaded full fuel and even if within maximum gross weight might have been with an aft CG reducing the ability to recover from a stall.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Would it be crazy to takeoff to the west to ETL VOR and then swing south to Albuquerque before turning east? I know it would add time to the flight, but this way you avoid any treacherous mountains.

  22. I would disagree that this is a tricky airport. Its tricky only if you do unusual stuff like fly close to a ridge or into a narrow canyon, or fly in a direction that no other average pilot does. TEX is a relatively easy airport if you stick to the western side. If you look at his flight earlier in the day, you can see that he criss crossed the mountains without any technique, as if he was flying over some lakes in Florida. Colorado mountains are enchantingly beautiful this time of year, but they can very easily bit you if you are below the peaks in a piston. An hour with a CFI would have saved their lives. But it is always difficult to admit that an airline pilot flying jets might need advice from a piston-flying CFI.

    1. ^^^^ Agreed. Furthermore, he could have discussed his departure plans with that CFI or any local pilot by just sitting at a table in the KTEX FBO. Together, they could have developed Plan B to cover inability to outclimb the rising terrain.

      Plan B for flying below the ridge on the course he traveled is to keep straight and pre-plan a gear-up crash landing in the open space adjoining the West end of Ingram Lake. That space is about 400 feet long at elevation 12,040 ft, which he would have reached easily if no turn was attempted. (See Topo map link below).

      Every flight below the ridge line following rising terrain into a box canyon should include a pre-planned spot for the crash contingency. If you can't pick a crash site that meets your needs, don't fly below the ridge in the rising terrain direction.

    2. I suspect here is a deadly mental process of "it's a good idea at the time" that is hard to catch for any pilot flying single PIC regardless of their rating and other flying experience if they are not on guard. Just like approaching a black hole you don't realize you crossed the event horizon until it's too late.

  23. It is sad anytime lives are lost and an aircraft destroyed. A youtube site stated he was not used to flying in the mountains.

  24. The ADS-B info shows he had about a 500 fpm climb in the three minutes or so before the accident. Winds at KTEX were 10 knots / 17 knots, 260°. This indicates he had a probable tailwind, making his climb angle worse than would be expected in still air.

    1. Tailwind does make things worse, but would still air and 500 fpm climb have been enough?

      ADS-B data shows N4444k 11,200' at the Black Bear Pass switchbacks. Only two miles of flying distance remain after that point in the box canyon. In that two miles the aircraft must climb and clear 12,800' terrain ahead.

      A minimum of 1600 feet gain in altitude over that two miles was needed to get out. Climbing at 500 fpm would get the job done in three minutes and twelve seconds. For two miles traveled at various ground speeds, time duration and resulting required rate to climb 1600' in that duration are:

      100 kts: 1 minute and 3 secs (1533 fpm climb rate for 1600 gain)
      80 kts: 1 minute and 18 secs (1227 fpm climb rate for 1600 gain)
      60 kts: 1 minute and 44 secs (920 fpm climb rate for 1600 gain)
      40 kts: 2 minute and 36 secs (614 fpm climb rate for 1600 gain)

      Tailwind was not a make or break consideration in this case.

  25. So it's obvious he couldn't outclimb approaching terrain. A little bit of circling above the airport after departure to gain the necessary altitude...

    No one mentions he violated the basic ODP which although it applies to IFR flights also is a very good idea in visual conditions.

    Rwy 27, climb to 12000 on heading 276° and the ETL R-096 to ETL VOR/DME. For aircraft departing V-382 southeast
    bound, continue climb-in-hold to 14200.

    This means he should at least have maintained 270-280 until 12000 then turned East...

    Like rules, obstacle departure procedures are in place for a reason i.e written in blood.

  26. "The airplane wreckage showed evidence of a nearly vertical impact."

    This is a worrying statement in the prelim report.

    - It doesn't suggest a controlled flight into terrain. More like a stall or something failed mid-air.

    Shocking that a pilot of his calibre and his newly married wife killed like that.

    Condolences to the families and friends.

    1. Read above... correlation! Use the ODP for VFR departure or something inspired by it.
      Rote, knowledge, application and correlation.
      An ATP of his caliber should have correlated not just done application of his knowledge.
      But as we all know most reluctant CFIs that just teach to build time and then fly for the airlines poorly apply the tenets of the fundamentals of learning and the laws of learning, and especially to themselves.
      In Aviation you either keep on learning forever or become dangerous...

  27. Beautiful couple. Very sad demise. I do not understand how people want to name an ERU building after someone who made such a poor aeronautic decision. Doesn’t make any sense for an aviation university.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot... are you serious?
      This dude just ignored a basic ODP procedure that could have saved his life (Correlation = apply something from IFR to VFR because... it is common sense and guarantees obstacle clearance) and people want to name a building after him?
      I understand the pain, the sadness, but let's be lucid that he ran a perfectly good plane that showed itself perfectly functioning a short time earlier on a sightseeing flight into the ground.
      The NTSB will eliminate one by one all the possibilities until one remain: Exceedance of critical angle of attack while maneuvering in high DA and loss of control.

  28. There is a possibility that they went back to get a suggested photo as a result of giving the wedding photographers that sightseeing flight right before the accident. Let themselves overfly Ingram Falls during the improptu side trip but could not complete the intended turnback afterwards.

    Airborne view of the entry point to Ingram Basin can be seen at 7:52 in the flyby video linked below (snow visible at Ingram Falls). (Also at 8:11, 8:16, 8:44)

  29. I think airline pilots operate on a different level than us under 12,500 lb. crowd. See, we would've anticipated this issue whereas someone that fly's for the airlines rarely encounters this problem. It's a different mindset. However, we were all taught the perils of flying the leeward side of mountainous terrain, box canyons and rising terrain as private pilots. I'll confess I almost did this >once<.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. No matter how many ratings you may have it is imperative to always continue to train and learn. Godspeed to this young couple...

    2. Thank you for sharing. No matter your ratings or how many hours you have, it is imperative to continue to train and learn... Godspeed to this young beautiful couple.

  30. He chose the riskiest, but the most picturesque, route out of Telluride. No reward or enough opportunity to recalculate. He could have headed south. He could have headed west then turned back towards Ridgway. You can choose your behaviors, you cant choose your consequences. What an unfortunate tragedy.

  31. I lost a friend / pilot here in Denver decades ago because he advanced way to fast up the ladder. Hope all of use here at United and elsewhere who helped kill them remember that next time. God bless us all.

  32. For ATPs getting back into small planes... I would have this advice as now CFI: Assume you are students again. There is 0 correlation between a massive jet with large turbines and complete disregard for density altitude at 10,000 ft and even a relatively well powered high performance single engine. Large jets will be way more forgiving and you are surrounded by a co-pilot, an array of reliable instruments and the preplanning has already been done. It's called negative transfer.
    And for all the laurels this pilot has he ended up making a fatal decision in the end, entirely due to faulty ADM. The plane is A-ok and there would have not been any tragedy would he have stuck to the ODP. The fate was sealed even before they took off once he had this flight plan in mind.

  33. As others have opined, it seems this airline pilot got stuck in a box canyon with downdrafts that he could not out climb. This kind of predicament is well known risk in the high country. I lived and flew for many years in the Colorado Front Range where we had the opportunity to take Mountain Flying courses/refreshers on a regular basis. Every year, unsuspecting light aircraft pilots and their passengers lose their lives to Colorado's mountainous terrain. It is not a place to fly without proper training, and even then, there are risks. The aircraft might have had a service ceiling to FL180 in optimum conditions, but we don't know whether there were downdrafts that overwhelmed the aircraft's climb performance. The aircraft was flying southeast of Gray's basin, on the leeward side of the peak. Winds on the ground at KTEX were 10knots from 260 gusts to 17 knots. This would set up a downdraft on the lee side of the peak that the aircraft would have encountered as both turbulence and an inability to climb. Not manged properly and flying out of the downdraft can set up a stall spin scenario.

    I have added a link to Google earth that provides some graphical perspective. If you click on the link, you will see the 3D depiction of the crash site and it's relationship to the Gray's Basin peak. A second link will provide a good representation of the box canyon that was encountered.

    Mountain flying takes a similar level of expertise as instrument flying. If I were the one making the rules, I would make rules that requires regular currency for aircraft operators who fly low powered low aircraft into the high country.
    Accident site in relation to the windward ridge above Gray's Basin.,-107.75278/@37.91608936,-107.75248833,3545.87060964a,1232.64416132d,35y,0.00000001h,55.55868555t,-0r/data=ClgaLhIoGXpU_N8R9UJAIU5FKowt8FrAKhQzNy45MTQ2MDgsLTEwNy43NTI3OBgBIAEiJgokCVzL7GzMT0VAEaGwq-2oR0VAGc1axX7D4FTAIeCjVHAV7FTA

    View from the Northwest at the box canyon.,-107.75278/@37.915294,-107.74672196,3649.77674247a,3134.43358925d,35y,115.38324864h,60.00249954t,360r/data=ClgaLhIoGXpU_N8R9UJAIU5FKowt8FrAKhQzNy45MTQ2MDgsLTEwNy43NTI3OBgBIAEiJgokCVzL7GzMT0VAEaGwq-2oR0VAGc1axX7D4FTAIeCjVHAV7FTA

    View southwest at the windward ridge where impact occurred,-107.75278/@37.9171358,-107.7458524,3698.60132222a,0d,56.28206806y,235.39826353h,94.52999558t,0r/data=ClgaLhIoGXpU_N8R9UJAIU5FKowt8FrAKhQzNy45MTQ2MDgsLTEwNy43NTI3OBgBIAEiJgokCVzL7GzMT0VAEaGwq-2oR0VAGc1axX7D4FTAIeCjVHAV7FTAIjAKLEFGMVFpcFB4enFiT0l0Q18tc2ZXSy0zaTgtSnpOU0ktVDZDcUJHbnN4SkRqEAU

    View southeast into the box canyon.,-107.75278/@37.9202957,-107.7527466,3552.52047567a,0d,60y,280.60522028h,88.43585952t,0r/data=ClgaLhIoGXpU_N8R9UJAIU5FKowt8FrAKhQzNy45MTQ2MDgsLTEwNy43NTI3OBgBIAEiJgokCVzL7GzMT0VAEaGwq-2oR0VAGc1axX7D4FTAIeCjVHAV7FTAIjAKLEFGMVFpcE9RbklaMDhXZDJLemtJclFpR3MzQXdBZlFiNmUtZktsTFJLOGhvEAU

    Mountain Downdrafts

  34. Scott from FlyWire did an excellent accident review. Well worth watching.

  35. Good point about FlyWire, in every video Scott does an excellent job, especially if you fly Beech Bonanzas.
    As for TEX, there’s a reason IFR arrivals are into runway 9. Every time I’ve flown into this airport, on departure I use the reverse of the RNAV GPS RW9 plate. I’ve done it several times, One slight course change and the climb gradient is easily achieved. Go the other way is another story.

  36. I love it when Darwin works his magic.

  37. If not mistaken, Im pretty sure another airline pilot crashed short of same Rwy on approach within a month or two of this accident. AA FO, if memory serves.

  38. Someone just had to have a video, or picture of Bridal Veil Falls from above and probably intended to make a right turn back for the vantage point of that Bridal Veil Falls video capture, from the air and ground. Not to climb over eastbound for a departure east. Simply got too deep in the canyon at the higher ground speed. Correctly followed the north side for the right turn back just got too deep trying to get pictures/video and didn’t make it. I hope it was quick. I spent weeks going over it from many views and pictures and terrain maps. That just one time-I-dis got them. So sorry to their families. At least they had what they had for a little while.

  39. So sad. I just learned of this accident and I've been trying to figure out what or how it could have happened.
    I repeated the flight with a V35B, using about the same temperature and weight, on Mircosoft Flight Sim 2020 and I ended up crashing almost at the exact same place. That canyon slowly rises and I didn't realize it until I heard the stall horn.