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N35DE accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city La Veta, CO
37.505012°N, 105.007775°W

Tail number N35DE
Accident date 26 Jul 1998
Aircraft type Beech H35
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On July 26, 1998, approximately 1100 mountain daylight time, a Beech H35, N35DE, registered to and operated by the pilot, was destroyed when it collided with terrain while maneuvering near La Veta Pass, about 8 miles northwest of La Veta, Colorado. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of their departure from Alamosa, Colorado, but instrument meteorological conditions reportedly existed at the accident site. No flight plan had been filed for the personal cross-country flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at 1042.

The pilot, James R. Ash, and his passenger, Joseph A. Todaro, departed Buckeye, Arizona, at 0620, en route to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where they planned to attend the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual fly-in. The airplane landed at Alamosa approximately 1000. According to Lineman Randy Duran, he serviced the airplane with 52.5 gallons of 100-LL aviation gasoline and added oil. He noticed the pilot wore two hearing aids. His passenger was apprehensive and expressed concern about the weather.

About the same time, a group of experimental-homebuilt airplanes, also en route to the EAA fly-in, landed at Alamosa for fuel. As the pilots prepared to depart, Paul Foster and John McMillan of Cody, Wyoming, flying N761AV, a Cessna T210M, offered to fly to La Veta Pass and assess the weather. When they arrived at La Veta Pass, they radioed the other pilots that the pass was completely obscured. The pilots returned to Alamosa and spent the night at a local motel.

Mr. Duran said that when N35DE taxied out for takeoff, the weather was "pretty nasty" with overcast skies. It had been raining "off and on," and the mountains to the east were obscured. Although the winds favored, and the active runway was, runway 02, the pilot of N35DE took off on runway 22. He made no radio transmissions to announce his intentions. A Cessna P210N, N731JT, piloted by Jerry Smith of Blanca, Colorado, landed on runway 02. During his landing roll, Mr. Smith looked up and saw N35DE pass overhead. He described it as a "near collision."

When the pilot of N35DE failed to contact family members on a prearranged date, they became concerned and contacted FAA officials. An ALNOT (alert notice) was issued on the afternoon of July 30. The wreckage was located by the Colorado Civil Air Patrol approximately 1100 on July 31 at a location of 37 degrees, 343.4 minutes north latitude and 105 degrees, 9.4 minutes west longitude, at the 9,000 foot level.


The pilot, James Russell Ash, age 73, was born on October 6, 1924. He held Private Pilot Certificate No. 1668929, dated December 30, 1965, with an airplane single-engine land rating. He was not instrument rated. He possessed a third class airman medical certificate, dated December 6, 1997, with the limitation, "Holder shall wear lenses that correct for distant vision and possess glasses that correct for near vision."

Two pilot logbooks were made available for review. The first logbook contained entries from September 13, 1959, to November 24, 1995. On January 16, 1991, when the pilot began flying the Beech H35, he discontinued logging each individual flight and, instead, made annual summaries of flight times. The second logbook contained three entries: June 30, 1996; December 20, 1996; May 6, 1998, each entry summarizing flight times to date. This logbook indicated that the pilot's most recent biennial flight review had been accomplished on November 15, 1997. These records also indicated that in the 39 years the pilot had been flying, he logged a total of 10 hours of simulated instrument flying, the last such flight having been made on January 20, 1968.


N35DE, s/n D4893, was manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1957. It was equipped with a Continental IO-470-C1B engine, s/n 242064-R, rated at 250 horsepower, and a McCauley 2-blade, all-metal, constant speed propeller, m/n 2A36C23-H-E.

According to the maintenance records, the last annual inspection on the airframe and the last 100-hour inspection of the engine were accomplished on May 1, 1998, at a tachometer time of 1,155.09 hours. At that time, the airframe had accrued 4,512.99 hours, and the engine had accrued 670.98 hours since major overhaul. The engine was installed in N35DE on January 20, 1984, but its total time was not recorded. The propeller was last overhauled on July 23, 1990.


According to the meteorological observation made at Alamosa at 1052 mdt, visual meteorological conditions prevailed. According to Randy Duran, the airport lineman, the weather was "not good." He said it was raining, the sky was overcast, and the mountains to the east were obscured.


The on-scene investigation disclosed the airplane impacted the south face of Mount Maestas (elevation 11,569 feet msl) about the 9,000 foot level. The summit of La Veta Pass is 9,413 feet msl. Southeast of the impact point were severed tree tops. There were no extended ground scars on the ground that sloped 20 degrees. The direction of impact was measured at 234 degrees magnetic. All major components of the airplane were accounted for, and control continuity was established. The propeller blades bore numerous chordwise scratches on the cambered surfaces. One blade had numerous leading edge gouges.


Autopsy (98A-292 and -293) protocols were performed by the El Paso County Corner's Office on behalf of the Huerfano County Coroner, Dr. David L. Bowerman, M.D., prosector. Toxicological specimens recovered were unsuitable for analysis.


In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation were the Beech Aircraft Corporation.

The wreckage was released to a representative of the pilot's insurance company on July 26, 1998.

(c) 2009-2018 Lee C. Baker / Crosswind Software, LLC. For informational purposes only.