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N39663 accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Montrose, CO
38.478320°N, 107.876174°W

Tail number N39663
Accident date 10 Oct 1998
Aircraft type Piper PA-28-181
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On October 10, 1998, approximately 1200 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N39663, owned by Nadolf Services, LLC, of Aurora, Colorado, and operated by Air West Flying Club of Broomfield, Colorado, was destroyed when it collided with trees while maneuvering in the Uncompahgre National Forest, about 20 miles southwest of Montrose, Colorado. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated at Montrose approximately 1140.

According to the rental agreement, the pilot indicated he would depart Jeffco Airport, Broomfield, Colorado, at 0630 on October 10, and return on October 11 approximately 1400. The airplane departed Broomfield and arrived at Montrose without reported incident. The pilot's parents and sister lived in Ridgway, Colorado, about 46 miles south-southeast of Montrose. The pilot telephoned his father and he agreed to meet them and go for an airplane ride.

Approximately 1200, hunters heard an airplane flying in the valley, then heard a loud noise. Suspecting the airplane had crashed, they reported this to the Ouray County Sheriff. The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was then notified. Homing in on the airplane's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signals, the wreckage was located the following afternoon, October 11, at 1318. A ground team hiked to the accident site and recovered the bodies of the pilot and his wife.

The next day, the Montrose County Sheriff's Office located the pilot's father's automobile in the airport parking lot. A pet dog was locked inside along with some personal items belonging to the pilot. Officials then suspected additional persons may have been aboard the airplane. The pilot's father and sister were eventually recovered from the aft cabin section of the airplane.

The accident occurred during the hours of daylight at a location of north 38 degrees, 17.41 minutes latitude, and west 108 degrees, 02.39 minutes longitude, at the 8,700 foot level.


The pilot, David William Loveless, age 27, was born on June 30, 1971. He held Private Pilot Certificate No. 324499557, dated October 4, 1998, with an airplane single engine land rating. He also held a third class airman medical certificate, dated July 13, 1998, with the restriction, "Holder shall wear corrective lenses for near and distant vision."

The pilot's logbook was retrieved from the wreckage and examined. It contained entries from July 10, 1998, when he began taking flying lessons, to October 9, 1998, the day before the accident. According to the logbook, he received his private pilot certificate on October 4. On October 8, he received 4.1 hours of dual instruction with the endorsement, "Mtn course. . .high alt." On October 9, he took his wife for an airplane ride. At the end of that flight, the pilot had logged 66.5 hours total time, 4.6 hours of which were in the Piper PA-28-181.


N39663 (s.n. 28-7990002) received a standard airworthiness certificate in the normal category on July 25, 1978. It was equipped with a Lycoming O-360-A4M engine (s.n. L-23616-36A), rated at 180 horsepower, and a Sensenich 2-blade, fixed pitch, all metal propeller (m.n. 76EM8S5-0-62).

The last annual inspection was performed on March 11, 1998, at a tachometer time of 2791.48 hours. Total time on the airframe was 4,770.74 hours. The last 100-hour inspection was conducted on June 26, 1998, at a tachometer reading of 2887.20 hours. Total time on the airframe was 4,866.45 hours. The engine was overhauled on January 5, 1993, and installed in N39663 on January 24, 1994, at a tachometer reading of 1,934.8. At that time, the engine had accrued 2,711.9 total hours. At the time of the accident, the engine had accrued 3,762 total hours, and 1,050 hours since major overhaul.


The following meteorological observations were made at the Montrose Memorial Airport on the morning of the accident.:

1153: Wind variable 5 knots; visibility greater that 10 statute miles; sky clear; temperature 21 degrees C. (69.8 degrees F.); dew point -4 degrees C. (24.8 degrees F.); altimeter 29.96 in. Hg.

1253: Wind variable 6 knots; visibility greater that 10 statute miles; sky clear; temperature 21 degrees C. (73.4 degrees F.); dew point -4 degrees C. (23.0 degrees F.); altimeter 29.93 in. Hg.


Witness marks indicate the airplane was in a steep left bank when it collided with a large spruce tree at 8,700 feet msl. The airplane struck the tree 60 feet above the ground, then slid 10 feet down and became entangled in its branches about 50 feet above the ground. The separated engine lay 100 feet beyond the tree. The angle between the engine and the airplane was 041 degrees.

One propeller blade was bent aft 10 to 15 degrees at a point 5 inches from the tip. The other blade was bent aft about 35 to 40 degrees. Chordwise scratches were noted on the cambered surfaces of both propeller blades.

The tree was cut down and the airframe examined. All major airplane components were accounted for. Flight control continuity was established to the center fuselage area. All cable breaks were similar to and consistent with tensile overload failures. Examination of the horizontal stabilator trim drum exposed 4.5 threads; the inner shaft was extended 0.75 inches. According to New Piper Aircraft, Inc., this would equate to approximately 20% nose down trim. It was noted that the cable stretch could have been due to the impact.

The left front seat remained attached to its tracks. The seatback remained attached to the lower frame and was bent to the right. The lower frame was collapsed downward. The seatbelt and shoulder harness were fastened, but the latter was torn from the frame. The right front seat exhibited similar damage except the right track had separated. The seatbelt and shoulder harness were fastened, but the seatbelt attach point was torn from the frame. The rear seats had collapsed downward and were bent to the right. Both seat belts were fastened.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot at the Montrose Memorial Hospital, by Dr. Michael J. Benziger, prosector. Toxicological tests were also conducted by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to CAMI's report (#9800345001), no carbon monoxide, cyanide, or drugs were detected in the blood, and no ethanol was detected in the vitreous humor.


When the airplane was released to the pilot, the tachometer and Hobbs meter read 2,982.76 and 1,994.3 hours, respectively. At the accident site, the tachometer and Hobbs meter registered 2,984.99 and 1,996.9 hours, a difference of 2.23 and 2.6 hours, respectively. Papers found indicated the flight to Montrose had been two hours duration.

Weight and balance computations were made. The airplane was estimated to have weighed between 2,262.85 pounds (best case scenario), and 2,328.37 pounds (worst case scenario). Maximum certificated gross weight is 2,550 pounds. It was estimated the airplane exceeded its aft c.g. limit by 0.27 inches (best case scenario) to 0.32 (worst case scenario) inches.

The accident site elevation was approximately 8,700 feet msl (above mean sea level), and Montrose is situated at 5,759 feet msl. Based on the Montrose altimeter setting of 29.96 inches of mercury, it was estimated that the accident site pressure altitude was 8,740 feet msl. The Montrose temperature was 21 degrees C. Using a standard adiabatic lapse rate of 2 degrees C. per 1,000 feet, the temperature at the accident site was estimated to be 15.2 degrees C. Using the Piper PA-28-181 Climb Performance chart, it was computed that under these conditions, a PA-28-181, at maximum gross weight, would be capable of climbing approximately 240 feet per minute.

On November 19, 1998, the engine was disassembled and inspected at the facilities of Beegles Aircraft Services, Greeley, Colorado. No discrepancies were noted.


In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation included New Piper Aircraft, Inc., and Textron Lycoming Engines.

The wreckage was released to the insurance company on October 14, 1998.

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