Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Van's RV-4, N456MC: Fatal accident occurred December 08, 2021 near Spanish Peaks Airfield (4V1), Walsenburg, Huerfano 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 Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Denver, Colorado

Location: Walsenburg, Colorado
Accident Number: CEN22FA064
Date and Time: December 8, 2021, 10:13 Local
Registration: N456MC
Aircraft: Vans RV-4 
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On December 8, 2021, about 1013 mountain standard time, a Vans RV-4 airplane, N456MC, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Walsenburg, Colorado. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to two other pilots involved in the flight, the accident flight was a three-airplane formation flight with position changes planned during the course of the flight. The three airplanes departed the Meadow Lake Airport (KFLY), Colorado Springs, Colorado, and headed south with the accident airplane as the lead airplane. As the airplanes transitioned south past Pueblo, Colorado, they began a descent towards the Cucharas Reservoir, northeast of Walsenburg. The airplanes were in a right echelon route formation and were prepared to go to a trail formation for a low-level maneuvering flight. About 1 mile north of the reservoir, the accident pilot directed the two other pilots to “go trail”, and he executed a left turn and descent towards a river canyon that extended north of the reservoir. The pilots reported they entered a descent and encountered strong surface winds and turbulence above the canyon rim. The accident pilot’s airplane descended below the canyon rim in a steep left bank turn. The pilots observed the accident airplane’s left wing contact the edge of the canyon at a high speed. The airplane fragmented and came to a stop in the canyon. After the accident, the pilots circled the area, contacted air traffic control to report the accident location, and then returned to KFLY.

A review of the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data revealed the flight tracks for the three airplanes were consistent with the witness reports. The accident airplane’s data ended about 1 mile west of the accident site.

Postaccident examination of the accident site revealed airplane debris consistent with the left wing and wing tip were at the initial impact area. The airplane’s forward fuselage impacted rocky terrain, and the airplane fragmented into multiple sections. The engine, fractured composite propeller blades, and the main landing gear were separated from the fuselage and came to rest between the initial impact point and main wreckage. The main wreckage consisted of the cockpit/cabin, empennage, and inboard sections of the left and right wings (see Figure 1.).

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Vans 
Registration: N456MC
Model/Series: RV-4
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file 
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: KTAD, 5743 ft msl
Observation Time: 10:54 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 11°C /-12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.84 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Colorado Springs, CO (FLY)
Destination: Walsenburg, CO

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 37.792822,-104.57616 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290. 

Michael Vaughn Cranford
(February 9, 1941 ~ December 8, 2021)

Michael Vaughn Cranford was born on February 9, 1951 to Donald Christian and Marjorie Sears Cranford in Mineral Wells.

After graduating from Stephenville High School, he received and appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, fulfilling his life-long dream of becoming a pilot.  Upon completion of his service duties to the Air Force, he began his commercial flying career spending 30+ years piloting for United Airlines.  His love of flying continued until his final flight in southern Colorado on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 when he entered into the arms of his Lord and Savior.

He is preceded in death by his father, mother, and older brother, Donald Cranford.  Survivors include his younger brother, Robert Cranford, sisters, Sue Parker (Sam), Louann Cranford, Kathy Gaines (Glenn), 4 nephews, 3 nieces, 12 great nieces and nephews, and numerous extended family members.  They along with many friends and professional acquaintances worldwide, will miss Mike greatly.

Donations in memory of Mike may be made to:

United States Air Force Academy Endowment
3116 Academy Dr., Suite 200
USAF Academy, CO 80840
*Checks should be payable to the Air Force Academy Fund

American Cancer Society
250 Williams Street NW
Atlanta, Georgia  30303-1002

Any charity of your choice.

HUERFANO, COUNTY, Colorado — The Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office has identified the pilot who died during a helicopter crash that happened earlier this week.

A death investigation revealed the pilot to be Michael Vaughn Cranford, 70, of Peyton, Colorado.

According to a recent press release, the crash happened on Wednesday, December 8 at 11:50 a.m. when the helicopter went down in the Cuchara River Canyon area, which is in a rural part of Huerfano County.

Initial reports indicated the aircraft was military and there were multiple fatalities. Further investigation revealed the information was incorrect. The actual reporting parties were two other aircraft that were flying with the downed helicopter.

When deputies arrived, they found a Van's RV-4 aircraft at the bottom of the Cuchara River Canyon. The pilot was found dead inside.

Due to dangerous wind conditions, rugged terrain, failing light, and the remote publicly undisclosed location of the crash site, it was determined that recovery operations be resumed the following morning.

On Thursday, December 9, an updated recovery plan was initiated. Deputies, along with Search and Rescue personnel and an NTSB aircraft accident investigator, hiked down into the canyon. Once they arrived, they began an investigation.

Flight for Life was activated after the determination of a safe landing zone in the area. Helicopter Lifeguard 4 landed and the pilot’s body was taken into the custody of the Spanish Peak Hospital Coroner. He was then transported to the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy.

The manner and cause of death is pending. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

DENVER, Colorado – An experimental aircraft crashed in a remote area northeast of Walsenburg around 10:30 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Van's RV-4 crashed northeast of Spanish Peaks Airfield around 10:30 a.m., which is just northeast of Walsenburg and south of Pueblo.

Only the pilot was onboard the plane, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Emma Duncan.

A spokesperson for Fort Carson confirmed it received a call for mutual aid in the Model area.

The Huerfano County Sheriff’s office and Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for more information on the crash or the status of the pilot on Wednesday.

Huerfano County officials confirmed they are responding to a reported aircraft down off County Road 122.

Duncan said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash and that the NTSB will lead the investigation and provide further updates.

1 comment:

  1. FA's Track

    Adsbex's track: