Thursday, November 26, 2020

Van's RV-4, N87LW: Fatal accident occurred November 26, 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 did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah

Location: Telluride, CO 
Accident Number: CEN21LA067
Date & Time: November 26, 2020, 12:59 Local
Registration: N87LW
Aircraft: Vans RV4 
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On November 26, 2020, about 1259 mountain standard time, an amateur-built Vans RV4 airplane, N87LW, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Telluride, Colorado. The pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

According to the airport manager for the Telluride Regional Airport (TEX), the pilot told an employee with the fixed base operator (FBO) at the airport that he intended to fly from TEX to Durango-La Plata County Airport (DRO), Durango, Colorado, to retrieve a passenger and then return to TEX. According to a fuel purchase receipt, at 1102, the pilot dispensed 23.87 gallons of 100 low-lead aviation fuel using the self-serve fuel pump at TEX. According to the airplane kit manufacturer, the airplane had a total fuel capacity of 32 gallons distributed evenly between two wing fuel tanks. According to automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data, at 1125, the flight departed TEX on runway 27 and flew direct to DRO and landed on runway 3 at 1150.

At 1229, the flight departed DRO on runway 3 and proceeded north back toward TEX. About 1256:45, the flight turned onto a left downwind for runway 27 at TEX. A FBO employee at TEX reported that she was monitoring the airport’s UNICOM frequency when the pilot transmitted that he was on the downwind leg for runway 27. The FBO employee told the pilot to park in the hangar after landing, and the pilot replied “cool.”

Further review of the recorded ADS-B data (Figure 1) indicated that the airplane entered the traffic pattern while descending through 9,900 ft mean sea level (msl) and flew the downwind leg about 1 statute mile (sm) south of the runway 27 centerline. According to airport documentation, the traffic pattern altitude for runway 27 at TEX was 10,484 ft msl (1,414 ft above the runway 27 threshold). The processed ADS-B data also indicated that the airplane had entered the traffic pattern at 100 knots calibrated airspeed (CAS), or about 115 mph CAS, but then decelerated during the downwind and base legs (Chart 1). Additionally, the airplane continued to descend about 250 feet per minute (fpm) during the downwind leg.

About 1258:15, the airplane turned left onto the base leg for runway 27 and continued to descend and decelerate. (Figure 2) About 1259:00, the airplane began a left turn from the base leg toward a ½ sm final approach course to runway 27. The airplane entered an increasingly rapid descent from 9,280 ft msl within a couple seconds into the left turn from the base leg to the final approach course. The airplane’s rate-of-descent increased from 578 fpm to 3,700 fpm during the final 4 seconds of recorded ADS-B data. (Chart 2) The airplane decelerated to about 52 knots CAS (60 mph CAS) during the left turn from the base leg to the final approach course. According to the airplane kit manufacturer, the airplane’s wings-level aerodynamic stall speed at a maximum gross weight of 1,500 lbs was 47 knots (54 mph).

According to the FBO employee who was monitoring the airport’s UNICOM frequency, at exact time unknown, there was a brief transmission where the pilot exclaimed “oh [expletive].” The FBO employee noted that the airplane disappeared from the FBO’s flight tracking system a few minutes after the pilot’s final transmission and that a representative with the United States Air Force Search and Rescue had called the airport inquiring about an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal that had been detected.

An airport security camera captured the final moments of the flight. The airplane is observed to enter a left wing down, nose down, turn and descend into terrain east of the airport. There was no video evidence of a postimpact fire or explosion. There were multiple witnesses who reported seeing the airplane enter a steep left bank turn toward the airport followed by a nose down descent toward

The wreckage was recovered to storage facility where a detailed examination will be completed.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Vans 
Registration: N87LW
Model/Series: RV4 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
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,9070 ft msl 
Observation Time: 12:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 1°C /-7°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots / , 270°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.01 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Durango, CO (DRO)
Destination: Telluride, CO

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: 37.94909,-107.88862

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Mana Mohtasham

Mana Mohtasham died unexpectedly and tragically on November 26th, 2020 at the age of 37 near Telluride, Colorado. 

Mana shone a special kind of light. She was a brave adventurer with an insatiable thirst for life - scaling mountains, conquering peaks, never afraid of a challenge or a new start. She lived fully and exuberantly, always looking forward to another trip and another adventure. Mana was strong - whether starting a life in a new country, or changing careers, she had the tenacity and strength of character to make tough decisions that others would have shied away from, and she pursued her dreams with determination and unflinching passion. She was a beloved and loving daughter and sister. She was also a loving, steady, loyal, supportive friend who pushed us all to be stronger and braver and to be the best versions of ourselves. Those she worked with remember her as smart, happy, hard-working, focused, and full of integrity. She left a lasting impression on those she came in touch with, and her bright smile, friendship, compassion, and loyalty will be missed by many. 

Mana is survived by her parents, Farhad and Nasrin Mohtasham, her brother, Mazdak Mohtasham, and many friends and extended family worldwide. 

A virtual memorial for Mana organized by her family will be held on Saturday, December 5th, 2020 via Zoom:

An in-person celebration of life for Mana will be held on Saturday, December 12th, 2020 in San Diego.

TELLURIDE, Colorado (KDVR) — Authorities have identified the two people killed in a plane crash near Telluride earlier this week.

According to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, the pilot was 48-year-old Bryan Lee Kill of Huachuca City, Arizona and more recently of Telluride.

The passenger was identified as 37-year-old Mana Mohtasham of Southern California.

FOX31 is learning more about these two victims from close friends and loved ones.

Everett West is fighting to come to terms with losing one of his closest friends and fellow marine Bryan Kill. 

“For 48-years-old, the man lived five lifetimes worth of stuff,” West said, adding “He was a pleasure to know. It’s almost surreal, just unfathomable really.”

West tells FOX31 Kill became a combat pilot for the Marines, retired and then became a first officer for American Airlines’ Envoy Air.

“I guess that’s what made this whole thing even harder, he was an accomplished pilot,” West said, adding “He wasn’t just a weekend warrior when it came to flying an aircraft, he knew what he was doing.”

Kill stood out as a leader and role model to many expressing their condolences on social media.

“He left the Marines the same time I did, went off to college, came back and then went through the officer ranks,” West said.

Kill’s dedication as a friend earned him the title of Uncle Bryan in West’s family.

“The guy was fantastic with children, children loved him as much as adults did,” West said. “He just had one of those magnetic personalities that just drew people to him. He’s going to be missed.”

Friends tell FOX31 they especially admired the 48-year-old’s love for adventure.

“The guy was an animal— air, land and sea,” West said. “He could have been a Navy SEAL instead of a Marine. He was comfortable in every element. He had his own boat that he actually soloed from the Annapolis harbor all the way down the coast, across the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of the United States.”

FOX31 spoke with Home Khanum who tells us she was extremely close friends with Mohtasham and her family.

She shared the following statement:

“Mana was truly a special young woman. She was honest, witty, caring, and lived her life to the fullest extent. She had an MBA degree and was working as project manager in San Diego. She loved sports and nature and traveled solo to many parts of the world including the Himalayas. Her energy and kind spirit will be sorely missed by her friends and family.”

The crash occurred about 1:30 p.m. Thursday as the plane was approaching Telluride Regional Airport.

The single-engine aircraft lost contact with the airport and several witnesses reported seeing the aircraft go down.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the crash site was located. Kill and Mohtasham were found deceased.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and tells FOX31 the board suspects a preliminary report may be available in about 10 days. 

TELLURIDE, Colorado  — The two people who died in the crash of a small plane near Telluride Regional Airport on Thursday have been identified.

The pilot was identified as 48-year-old Bryan Lee Kill. The San Miguel County Sheriff's Office said he was from Huachuca City, Arizona, and recently of Telluride.

The Sheriff's Office on Saturday identified the passenger as Mana Mohtasham, 37, of Southern California. She has relatives in California and Iran, the Sheriff's Office said.

According to a Facebook post from the Sheriff's Office, the Van's RV-4 was approaching the airport at around 1:30 p.m. when the airport lost contact with the aircraft and several witnesses reported seeing the plane go down.

The sheriff's office said the crash site was located around 2:30 p.m. and both people onboard were found to be dead. 

The sheriff's office, San Miguel Search and Rescue, Telluride Fire Department/EMS and the San Miguel County coroner are investigating the scene and working to recover the victims, according to the post.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the Van's RV-4 went down about half a mile east of the airport.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, Colorado (KKCO) - The two occupants onboard an experimental aircraft died after they crashed while enroute to the Telluride Regional Airport on Thanksgiving Day.

The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office reports that the airport lost contact with the aircraft around 1:30 p.m., and several witnesses say they saw the plane going down.

San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, San Miguel Search and Rescue, Telluride Fire Department/EMS, and the San Miguel County Coroner responded to the site of the crash and were able to confirm the deaths of two victims.

The pilot has been identified as 48-year-old Bryan Lee Kill of Huachuca City, Arizona. He was traveling with a female passenger whose identity is known but has not been released as the sheriff’s office is working to locate a next of kin.

The FAA and NTSB are currently investigating the circumstances around the crash.

A plane crash on Thursday east of Telluride killed both people onboard, according to the San Miguel Sheriff’s Office.

The experimental aircraft was on approach to the Telluride Regional Airport at 1:30 p.m. when the airport lost contact. Several witnesses reported seeing the aircraft go down.

The Van’s RV-4 had taken off from the Durango-La Plata County Airport at 12:30 p.m. Thursday enroute to Telluride, according to FlightAware and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Members of the San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, San Miguel Search and Rescue, Telluride Fire Department and San Miguel Coroner’s Office were investigating the scene and working to recover the victims.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were notified, and a response plan was being formulated.

According to the FAA, the downed plane was found a half mile east of Telluride and occurred under unknown circumstances. Damage to the aircraft was substantial.


  1. RIP
    te Departure Arrival Duration
    26-Nov-2020 12:30 Durango-La Plata County - DRO Last seen at 12:48 near Telluride, CO 0h 18m
    26-Nov-2020 First seen at 11:34 near Telluride, CO 11:51 Durango-La Plata County - DRO 0h 17m

    KTEX @ 37.9536 -107.9092 elevation of 9,078 feet (2767 m) above sea level,
    Time (EST) Latitude Longitude Course kts mph feet Rate
    Thu 14:30:20 Departure (KDRO) @ Thursday 12:30:20 MST
    Thu 14:47:48 37.6510 -107.8879↑ 353° 158 182 12,300 279
    Thu 14:48:37 Arrival () @ Thursday 14:48:37 EST
    Thu 14:48:37 37.6867 -107.8932↑ 355° 163 188 12,500 245
    KTEX @ 37.9536 -107.9092 elevation of 9,078 feet (2767 m) above sea level,
    Time (EST) Latitude Longitude Course kts mph feet Rate
    Thu 14:30:20 Departure (KDRO) @ Thursday 12:30:20 MST
    Thu 14:47:48 37.6510 -107.8879↑ 353° 158 182 12,300 279
    Thu 14:48:37 Arrival () @ Thursday 14:48:37 EST
    Thu 14:48:37 37.6867 -107.8932↑ 355° 163 188 12,500 245

  2. Damn! That does not look like an airport you want to mess around with, overrunning or coming in short.

    1. You are totally correct. It is not an airport you would want to "try your hand" at mountain flying for the first time.
      Here are some specs about the airport
      Telluride, CO (TEX)- Elv 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.

  3. Here's a photo of N87LW taken at Sisters Eagle Air Airport (6K5) Oregon in 2017 (flight track of flight)

    Also of note: The registration had expired on 05/31/2020 and was ultimately Canceled by the FAA on 10/29/2020

    1. I'm not talking about airworthiness date. I'm saying the Registration,
      (the N number, like your car license plate was canceled due to non renewal)

    2. Really unfortunate. I wonder if that will impact insurance coverage.

    3. The plane did not flt for two years and the first flight after that period was 11/25/19. It got a new engine and a panel upgrade. It was then IFR equipped.

  4. This is the second airline pilot to die in a crash operating in/out of Telluride in as many month's. The other was a newly married couple in a Bonanza.

    1. since 1984, when the "mountain village scare port" I call it, was built to service skiers at the Doral Hotel, there have been 26 NTSB reports, most of them include many destroyed airplanes of every type, and at least 10 deaths, and many more, if you count, "scared shitless" passengers, and 26 "errors", most could have been avoided if the fbo at MEX would have been much more professional, and demanded that all pilots coming into this airspace, kinda "prove themselves" before exiting the CONES VOR, and be talked in by professional pilots on the ground. Like Lukia Nepal, Telluride started out a "straight in, Straight out" runway, for good reason, but right away, too many people came, and they had to cram two quarts of shit into a one quart container. Plus, Plus, they started flying people in here in the summer time, with clear air wave turbulence, a density altitude of 13,000 or more, and the shortest base to final of just about any airport in the world.
      My friend's home is just East of the runway, and this last accident almost took out his home, with him and his family in it.! .. His home is only 2,000 feet from the threshold, and because of stupid "noise abatement rules of the fbo, pilots have to enter a left downwind, and then make a very difficult base turn and then an quick turn to final.. all in sink air. Might as well be carrier qualified . Telluride used to be the Hang Gliding capitol of the world, back between 1971 and 81', and you absolutely had to be an H4 rated pilot to fly here, because of the "conditions", but that all went away when mountain village built it's airport. Conditions have not changed, but the rating system was just pushed under the rug. Bottom line, this is NOT a training facility, or sight seeing tour bus, make telluride go back to being a one way in, and a one way out airport again, with no "down wind" legs to fly. check out don't see Telluride, or the canyon under you on base to final, but you do see the mountain village that this airport was built for.


    Dimensions: 7111 x 100 feet / 2167 x 30 meters
    Surface: Asphalt / Grooved in Excellent Condition

  7. "impacted mountainous terrain while on approach to Runway 27 at Telluride Regional Airport (TEX/KTEX), Telluride, Colorado." per ASN

    The below personal weather station is very close to KTEX @ 37.9536 -107.9092 elevation of 9,078 feet.

    "Last $ PUD - KCOTELLU17"
    Elev 8917 ft, 37.95 °N, 107.89 °W
    November 26, 2020
    Time Temp Wind Speed Gust Pressure
    1:24 PM 38.2 F WSW 5.8 mph 7.4 mph 30.03 in
    1:29 PM 38.7 F WSW 4.9 mph 6.3 mph 30.03 in
    1:34 PM 39.2 F West 3.6 mph 5.5 mph 30.03 in

    1. Easy enough to retrieve the actual KTEX AWOS weather here:

      Select KTEX, pick date range, get data and see it all:

    2. "The Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM) collects environmental data from (many) cooperating members with observing networks. The data are stored and made available on this website." is great site

  8. I agree for locations with site weather stations, and if I'd thought about KTEX weather yesterday, a 3 day history is/was available at
    Wunderground personal weather stations have a longer history and just sometimes close to a location of interest.

    1. Yep, noaa has to be grabbed before the 3 day history scrolls off. Nationally funded system but no publicly accessible archive. WU can be handy. The archive is quite a project, certainly destined to be pay per view as the virus-driven worldwide financial collapse gathers momentum. Useful at the moment!

  9. DMMS Defined Min Maneuvering Speed violation and resultant stalling of the aircraft in the pattern senselessly claims the lives of many pilots EVERY month. Juan

  10. There are actually several "V" speeds that apply here.
    VS= Stall speed or minimum steady flight speed for which the aircraft is still controllable.
    VS0= Stall speed or minimum flight speed in landing configuration.
    VS1= Stall speed or minimum steady flight speed for which the aircraft is still controllable in a specific configuration
    VSR= Reference stall speed
    VSR0= Reference stall speed in landing configuration
    VSR1= Reference stall speed in a specific configuration

  11. First Officer at Envoy Air. Several pics flying in the Rocky Mountains days before.

  12. Hypoxia? Apparently he was surprised by something unexpected at the end.

    1. Keyed the mic to announce final, but stall pitchover changed the verbalization.

  13. read about the RV-4 and you'll likely read this, "the RV4 has almost no pre-stall buffet."
    and this "I had a hard time discerning any prestall buffet, at any speed, flaps up or down. If stalled at 1g, the airplane will break without warning." @

  14. Folks, I've been giving this one a lot of thought. I ferried an RV4 from SC to California so I'm somewhat familiar with them.
    Mr Kill picked up a female passenger for transport back to Telluride. I presume she was staying overnight or maybe longer. You and I both know women pack heavy even if just overnight. With that being said, for those of you that are not familiar with the RV4 it has a >very< cramped back seat area, almost like it was an afterthought. Barley room for a small woman and maybe a duffel bag at best. The RV I ferried had smoke oil tank behind the rear set but without the oil tank one could probably get some luggage to fit back there. How much I don't know. My theory is Mr Kill, having few alternatives put a bag or bags back there and they either put his CG waayy aft or one of them slid back and jammed the controls.

    1. See example RV-4 W&B at link below for 215lb solo pilot with 50 lbs behind the rear seat and another 15 lbs "optional baggage" added aft of that. No passenger in his calculation, but moment arm for passenger position is listed, so you can plug in a guess for passenger weight and recalculate.

      Adding a 120 passenger approaches but does not exceed rear cg limit in that calc sheet. Gross limit does get exceeded. Accident pilot weight less than the example and some fuel burnoff improves the calculation.

      There is supposed to be an aft bulkhead to close the rear of the baggage compartment, unless it was taken out.

    2. I am not so sure it's a CG issue given he was 500 below TPA while entering/on downwind. I've never flown into that airport but looking at the profile of the area/canyon I have to wonder if he was just distracted, too low from dwnd to base, and didn't realize it till it was too late. Almost seems like 500 low when entering the TP, standard decent rate/pattern.

      Would be interested to hear from those who fly in/out of there to see how the canyons can impact your ground reference. I've flown into some other airports on bluffs like that (at much lower MSL) where you seemed really high on approach because of similar landscape.

    3. "11/26 13:00 hours, 8 mph @ 249 degrees" WU station KCOTELLU17

  15. 52 knots, banked, at or near gross, @9000+ msl.

    With or without a puff of tailwind, DMMS physics.

    No mystery here.

  16. No evidence of post impact fire...perhaps out of fuel, failure to maintain air speed while attempting to glide to runway?

    1. Nope... from the radio call he was startled by something, or maybe realized his approach was way too low and he was to close to the ground at that point. Just like the stall/spin of the newly wedded couple a few weeks ago there was no post impact fire as stalls are generally low velocity, but just enough to kill you. Same also as the stall/spin in Hatch, NM of an overloaded 172 a few years back.

  17. At first glance I thought was "just" a stall spin- but knowing just a bit about mountain flying and that giant descent rate at the end- likely he encountered a downdraft and did not have enough altitude/airspeed margin to counter. Very scary and unfortunate. With a little extra of both it might have been ok. Over flat land at lower altitude the same altitudes and airspeeds would likely have been no issue.

  18. in conclusion, "we know that a spin results from uncoordinated flight and stalled wings, and inadvertent spins often don’t end well."

    the report states that "The airplane decelerated to about 52 knots CAS (60 mph CAS) during the left turn from the base leg to the final approach course. According to the airplane kit manufacturer, the airplane’s wings-level aerodynamic stall speed at a maximum gross weight of 1,500 lbs was 47 knots (54 mph)."

    continued from aopa, "So what happens when a turning stall lacks coordination? In a slipping turn, the raised wing has a higher angle of attack; in a stall during a slipping turn, the raised wing stalls first, and the airplane may enter an “over the top” spin (see above). Slipping is an effective technique to combat a crosswind on landing or to lose altitude without picking up unwanted airspeed on final. But stalling during a slip can result in a spin, so take care to ensure that the angle of attack stays low when close to the ground."

    1. "A Nose heavy airplane is hard to fly, but a tail heavy airplane, ..Flies once"

  19. Chart1 and Chart2 in the report show true airspeed greater than ground speed for the base leg, indicating a headwind on base.

    If the charting is correct, turning final eliminated the headwind, immediately reducing available lift as he began the turn.

    Report states:"An airport security camera captured the final moments of the flight. The airplane is observed to enter a left wing down, nose down, turn and descend into terrain east of the airport. "

    Wind beyond the edge of the mesa can vary widely from AWOS reports on the field, which recorded 10 knots @ 270° as he arrived.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.