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N360GB accident description

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Tail numberN360GB
Accident dateJuly 31, 1997
Aircraft typeLancair 320
LocationDillon, CO
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On July 31, 1997, at 1420 mountain daylight time (mdt), a Lancair 320 homebuilt experimental aircraft, N360GB, collided with terrain near Dillon, Colorado, in a canyon at 12,200 feet above mean sea level (msl). The private pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries and the aircraft was destroyed. The flight was operating under Title 14 CFR Part 91 and no flight plan was filed for this personal flight which departed Concord, California, at 0700 mdt. According to a fuel slip found in the wreckage, a fuel stop was made at Richfield, Utah, at 1059 mdt where the pilot purchased 22.2 gallons of 100 LL aviation grade fuel. Any other stops are unknown, and the reported destination, according to the pilot's ex wife, was Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Weather in the area at the time of the accident was instrument meteorological conditions.

According to witnesses, the aircraft was observed circling over Dillon, Colorado, and then proceeding east over interstate highway 70. Approximately 8 miles east of Dillon, the interstate highway goes through Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel under the Continental Divide. The tunnel is 1.7 miles in length and the west portal is 11,000 feet msl. The tunnel supervisor and a highway engineer saw the aircraft pass overhead approximately 200 feet above ground level. According to these witnesses, the aircraft was in-and-out of the cloud base and there was moderate rain. They reported the aircraft was in a climb, and turned north up a side canyon where it disappeared into clouds which reached the surface. They said that shortly after the aircraft disappeared, they could no longer hear engine noise, but heard no other sounds.

Later in the day, an emergency locator transmission was picked up by satellite, and after localization and confirmation, a search was started by the Summit County Sheriff's Department. The aircraft was found by searchers, based on emergency locator transmissions, at 1030 mountain daylight time on August 1, 1997.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to FAA records, the pilot held a Private Pilot Certificate number 152445381, issued May 7, 1974. He had a single engine land rating and did not hold an instrument rating. The only pilot log found was in the wreckage. The log start date was May 1974, and provided information that the pilot received his certificate rating ride in a Cessna 150 aircraft. The log documented that the majority of his flying was conducted in Cessna 140, 150 and 172 aircraft until November 1984, when he started flying a Stinson 108. Flight in the Stinson was the only flight time logged until July of 1993, when the pilot flew one flight in a Citabria, two flights in a Piper Arrow, and one flight in a Glassaire. On July 27, 1993, the pilot first recorded flight time in the accident aircraft and logged 7 flights through April 3, 1994. Entries in the log from that date are general in nature and do not provide specific dates or flight time until an entry made in May 1996, where the pilot indicated a total time of 325 hours. The next and last entry in the log was a biennial flight review on July 19, 1997. Approximately 1/3 of the flights entered in the pilot log indicated cross country flights. No entries were found that indicated previous experience in the geographic area where the accident occurred.

The pilot also held a "repairman-A/C builder" certificate, number 2496874, dated April 4 , 1994. Ratings and limitations were "Inspection certificate for experimental aircraft make Werner, Glen A., model Lancair 320, serial no. 117P, certification date 4/4/94."

Several telephone interviews were conducted with the pilot's ex wife. She provided information that the pilot often did not log flight time, that he flew extensively, and flew many cross-country flights usually navigating by following highways at low level. She said, as far as she was aware, the pilot had not previously flown in the area where the accident occurred. She also said that it was her understanding the pilot was en route to the air show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to FAA records and records found in the accident aircraft, the aircraft was built by the pilot and was issued a special airworthiness certificate on April 4, 1994. Restrictions on the certificate were "day VFR only," no towing operations, and no acrobatics. The only log found during the course of the investigation was the engine log. There were no entries in the log to indicate that any annual condition inspections, required by the airworthiness certificate, were performed. The first entry in the log, dated in March 1992, indicated the engine was ready for run in. The log indicated the oil was changed six times between that entry and the last entry, an oil change, dated July 27, 1996. Time on the engine on that date was logged as 334 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The accident site was located in the Blue River drainage basin which lies between north/south oriented mountain ranges with peaks extending above 14,000 feet msl. The were no weather reporting stations within the basin and the best weather condition reports thus came from witnesses in the accident area. According to these persons, weather conditions were low clouds with moderate rain. The base of the clouds was indicated by the two Department of Highways employees located at the west end of the Eisenhower Tunnel. They provided information that the base of the clouds appeared to be approximately 200 feet above the surface at the entrance to the tunnel. Calculations indicate the cloud base to be approximately 11,200 feet msl. The accident site was measured at 12,200 feet msl by a calibrated altimeter.

COMMUNICATIONS

No indication of any radio communications with any facility was found during the course of the investigation.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The accident site was a draw oriented south to north ending in a bowl at the base of Hager Mountain, elevation 13,195 feet msl. The draw started at the entrance to the Eisenhower Tunnel, elevation 11,000 feet msl. The entire area was above timberline and the surface consisted of alpine vegetation (tundra) and granite rock.

The first witness mark was a gouge in the tundra approximately 1/2 mile north of the tunnel/highway running from east to west. The gouge contained pieces of red lens glass. Approximately 23 feet beyond this gouge was a large scarred area which contained portions of the engine sump and one propeller blade. The next item in the wreckage scatter was the left wing located 15 feet beyond the scar containing the propeller blade. A small creek ran from north to south through the area and the remainder of the aircraft structure and engine were found on the west side of this creek.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

Both occupants were thrown free of the aircraft and were found deceased. According to the medical examiner, the pilot died as a result of blunt force trauma associated with the aircraft accident. An autopsy was not performed on the passenger.

ADDITIONAL DATA/INFORMATION

The wreckage was recovered and verbally released to Beegles Aircraft Services, Greeley, Colorado, on August 1, 1997. All records were transferred to Beegles custody on March 24, 1998.

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