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N3015L accident description

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Tail numberN3015L
Accident dateApril 07, 2005
Aircraft typePiper PA-32RT-300
LocationBroomfield, CO
Near 39.908333 N, -105.116667 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On April 7, 2005, at 1219 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-32RT-300, N3015L, was destroyed while landing on runway 29R at Jefferson County Regional Airport (BJC), Broomfield, Colorado. A postimpact fire ensued. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The commercial certificated pilot sustained fatal injuries. The flight originated at BJC approximately 0900.

According to the air traffic control tower (ATCT) voice transcripts, the pilot contacted the ATCT at 1214, "ten miles to the north northeast sixty five hundred with Quebec." The controller acknowledged and directed the airplane to enter a right downwind for runway two nine right. The pilot of the accident airplane reported downwind and the tower controller requested "Lance one five lima can you give me a short approach [?]" (The recording had a sound of mike activation; however, this sound was not reflected in the transcript.) The controller cleared the accident airplane to "make short approach runway two niner right cleared to land." The pilot of the accident airplane acknowledged the clearance to land.

Airport surveillance video showed that the airplane impacted the runway in a left wing low attitude. The left main landing gear collapsed followed by the nose and right main landing gear. The airplane departed the right side of the runway, slid sideways on its belly, and impacted a runway/taxiway sig. The airplane came to rest in the grass between the runway and Alpha taxiway. A postimpact fire ensued. A witness stated that after the airplane came to rest, the pilot exited the right side of the airplane.

Airport surveillance video depicted a high wing Cessna aircraft taxiing south along the Alpha taxiway, towards the departure end of runway 29R at the time of impact. The pilot of this Cessna observed the accident airplane in a "low, wide," turn to final for runway 29R. The pilot of the Cessna stated the accident airplane overshot the runway and continued to turn back towards the runway.

According to another witness near the accident site, the accident airplane was observed overhead, "teetering back and forth." This witness observed the airplane bank "hard" towards the west, as if to line up with the runway. The witness lost sight of the airplane; however, he heard both the sound of an engine "revving" or increasing in rpm, and the sound of a crash. Shortly thereafter, the witness observed two balls of fire, one approximately 30 seconds after the initial ball of fire.


The male pilot, age 78, held an airline transport pilot certificate with multi-engine privileges and type ratings for DC-3, DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, DC-10, B727 and B747 aircraft. In addition, he held a commercial pilot certificate with single engine airplane land and sea privileges.

The pilot was issued a third class airman medical certificate on January 12, 2005. The certificate contained the limitation, "Holder shall wear lenses that correct for distant vision and possess glasses that correct for near vision while exercising the privileges of his/her airman certificate."

According to photocopies of the pilot's logbook, he had logged approximately 100 hours in the PA-32RT-300 over the past 5 years. The pilot had logged 11 hours in the past 90 days in the accident airplane. Insurance records indicate the pilot had approximately 180 hours total time in the PA-32RT-300. These records indicated that the pilot had logged approximately 25,900 total hours.

The pilot received a "flight review/instrument competency" endorsement on April 26, 2003. The flight review was conducted in the accident airplane and consisted of 1.2 hours flight time, 0.5 of which was simulated instrument time. On May 18, 2004, the pilot received an aircraft checkout from a Ten Hi Flyers-approved flight instructor. The flight check was conducted in the accident airplane and consisted of 1.3 hours flight time. The flight included steep turns, slow flight, stalls, and emergency procedures.


N3015L, a Piper PA-32RT-300 (serial number 32R-7985067), was manufactured in 1979. It was equipped with a Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine rated for 300 horsepower. The engine was equipped with a Hartzell HCC3YR-1, 3 bladed, controllable pitch propeller.

The airplane was registered to and operated by Ten Hi Flyers Incorporated, located at BJC. The airplane was maintained under an annual inspection program. The maintenance records indicated that the airplane underwent an annual inspection on October 10, 2004, at a tachometer time of 3,297.3. The airplane had been flown approximately 72 hours since the annual inspection.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Accident Database, the accident airplane was involved in an accident on August 18, 2001 (Reference Accident DEN01LA149). The probable cause of that accident was "the mechanic's failure to perform an airworthiness directive, which resulted in the loss of engine oil through a partially failed oil filter converter plate gasket, and subsequent failure of a connective rod during cruise flight." Further examination of the maintenance records revealed the airplane underwent extensive replacement and repair work, due to this accident, ending in December of 2001.


At 1145 the BJC automated surface observation system (ASOS) reported, wind 160 degrees at 7 knots; visibility, 40 statute miles; few clouds at 25,000 feet msl; temperature, 17 degrees Celsius (C); dewpoint, minus 6 degrees C; altimeter, 30.17 inches.

At 1225 the BJC ASOS reported, wind, 140 degrees at 7 knots; visibility, 60 statute miles; few clouds at 20,000 feet msl; temperature, 18 degrees C; dew point, minus 6 degrees C; altimeter, 30.14 inches.

According to the BJC Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS), Quebec was the current information prior to the accident. The recording was as follows:

"jeffco airport information quebec one seven four five zulu observation

wind one six zero at seven visibility four zero sky a few clouds at two five thousand temperature one seven dewpoint minus five altimeter three zero one seven

visual approaches in use landing and departing runway two niner left and right

notice to airmen taxiway alpha five between alpha and the ramp restricted to aircraft twelve thousand five hundred pounds or less use caution for personnel and equipment operating on the terminal ramp area

departures contact the tower after run up for sequence and move to the hold line at assigned sequence advise on initial contact you have information Quebec"

According to the ATCT voice transcripts at 1223 the controller stated "we're getting a little bit of a tailwind now use caution its ah one two zero at one zero." The ATIS recording was updated after the accident to ATIS Sierra to reflect the wind and a change in active runway to 11R.

A Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) WindTracer System was located approximately 1,160 feet east of the runway 29R threshold and 610 feet north-northeast of the extended centerline. This remote wind sensing system performs high-resolution radial wind and aerosol backscatter measurements. The system is configured so that a minimum of a 10-knot gain or loss would trigger a wind shear alert. The system does not relay real time alerts to the BJC tower. No alert was triggered at the time of the accident.

At the time of the accident, the system was performing 1.0 degree and 3.0 degree elevation PPI (Plan Position Indicator) scans. This results in information from an elevation of 16 feet and 21 feet above the landing threshold and touchdown zone at 1.0-degree elevation. The 3.0-degree elevation resulted in a height of 57 feet and 94 feet respectively.

Review of the 1.0-degree elevation PPI data indicates the winds were from 110 degrees at 6 knots, with occasional small gusts to 11 knots. During the scan at the time of the accident, a small gust of 11 knots appeared over the landing threshold. The winds in the touchdown zone at the time of the accident were around 6 knots. The winds recorded from 1.5 hours prior to the accident varied from 120 degrees to 140 degrees from 3 to 5 knots with gusts to 11 knots.

One witness, who was performing touch and go landings on runway 29R in a Cessna 172, stated that it was very turbulent and he found it "difficult to maintain runway centerline during the landing." Another witness who departed to the south after the accident noted no wind shear, turbulence, or downdrafts.


The National Transportation Safety Board arrived on scene approximately 1330 on April 7, 2005. The accident site was located on airport property, to the right of runway 29R, between the runway and the Alpha taxiway, and to the west of the Alpha Two intersection. The accident site was at an elevation of 5,670 feet msl.

The initial ground impact point was located on the right side of runway 29R, approximately 1,045 feet from the runway threshold and approximately 24.5 feet right of the runway centerline. The scar was 14.25 feet in length and contained a rubber material consistent with the left landing gear tire. Two additional skid marks, consistent with the nose and right main landing gear tires, were located approximately 56 feet and 69 feet forward of the 1,000-foot marker.

A debris path extended from the initial impact point, 576 feet on an approximate heading of 295 degrees, off the right side of the runway, across the Alpha Two intersection, to the main wreckage. The debris path contained tiny fiberglass pieces, fuel splatter, in addition to 35 slash marks consistent with propeller blades, rubber transfer marks, and metal scrapes. Fragmented portions of an airport locator sign and a runway light were also found within the debris path.

The main wreckage came to rest, on its belly, approximately 45 feet west of the Alpha Two intersection in the grass between runway 29R and the Alpha taxiway. The wreckage consisted of the left and right wings, the empennage, fuselage and engine/propeller assembly. The area surrounding the wreckage sustained fire damage.

The forward portion of the fuselage, to include the engine, propeller, and nose landing gear assemblies were charred melted and partially consumed by fire. All three propeller blades exhibited curling on each blade tip. The Plexiglas windscreen was fractured, charred, and melted. The aft portion of the fuselage, to include the instrument panel, flight controls, and cabin were charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire.

The right wing, to include the right aileron, right main landing gear, and right wing flap, was charred, melted, and partially consumed by fire. The inboard 7 feet of the right wing, to include the flap, was entirely consumed by fire. Control continuity for the right aileron was confirmed.

The left wing, to include the left aileron, and left flap, sustained partial thermal damage to the inboard leading edge of the wing. The left landing gear tire, brake assembly, and strut separated from the left wing and was found aft of the main wreckage. The inboard 34 inches of the left wing had been crushed aft longitudinally and the skin was torn. Control continuity for the left aileron was confirmed. Flap deflection was confirmed at 10 degrees.

The fuselage aft of the baggage door and the empennage, to include the rudder and stabilator, was charred and melted, and the right side of the fuselage was partially consumed by fire. The empennage tilted to the right and rested on the right stabilator. Examination of the pitch trim drum showed an inner shaft extension of approximately five threads. According to Piper Aircraft, this setting is consistent with a 2-degree nose up trim setting. Control continuity for the rudder and stabilator was confirmed.


The pilot succumbed to injuries one day after the accident. The autopsy was performed by the Jefferson County Coroner's Office in Golden, Colorado, on April 11, 2005. The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was due to "respiratory failure secondary to airway and lung injury related to the fire associated with the airplane crash. The autopsy further revealed the presence of extensive second degree burns of the body and significant atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, both of which are probable contributory factors."

A toxicology was performed by the Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aeromedical Institute, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology revealed 0.234 (ug/ml, ug/g) of morphine in the blood. Tests for carbon monoxide and cyanide were not performed and the test for ethanol was negative. The analytical results reported were from the antemortem serum and blood samples collected in the hospital on the day of the accident.


The wreckage was retained and relocated to a hangar in Greeley, Colorado, for further examination. An examination of the engine revealed no anomalies that would have precluded the engine from producing power. Examination of the airframe revealed no anomalies that would have precluded correct application of flight controls.


According to the WindTracer data and the BJC METAR, the wind varied from a direct tail wind at 6 to 11 knots to a 60 degree quartering tailwind from the left at 7 knots; the tailwind component was calculated to be approximately 4 knots and the crosswind was calculated to be approximately 6 knots.

The Jefferson County ATCT manager stated they do not have a runway use program. According to the Aeronautical Information Manual, Chapter 4 (Air Traffic Control), Section 3 (Airport Operations), Part 6b 1. (Use of Runways/Declared Distances, "At airports where no runway use program is established, ATC clearances may specify: (a) The runway most nearly aligned with the wind when it is 5 knots or more; (b) The "calm wind" runway when wind is less than 5 knots..." The runway most aligned with the wind at the time of the accident and up to 1.5 hours prior to the accident was runway 11R/L. No calm runway information was provided by the ATCT manager and no information was located in the Airport Facility Directory.

Parties to the investigation include Lycoming Engines, The New Piper Aircraft Company, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The wreckage was released to a representative of the insurance company on July 5, 2005.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.