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N68VT accident description

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Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Nederland, CO
39.961376°N, 105.510831°W

Tail number N68VT
Accident date 05 Jun 1999
Aircraft type Beech V35A
Additional details: None

NTSB description


On June 5, 1999, at 1019 mountain daylight time, a Beech V35A, N68VT, was destroyed following an in-flight collision with terrain while in cruise flight 7 miles northwest of Nederland, Colorado. The instrument-rated commercial certificated flight instructor, the sole occupant aboard, was fatally injured. The aircraft was being operated as a personal cross-country flight under Title 14 CFR Part 91, and no flight plan had been filed. The aircraft departed Lee's Summit, Missouri, approximately 0800 central daylight time, and was en route to McElroy Airfield, Kremmling, Colorado. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the accident area.

According to family members, the pilot departed Lee's Summit on the morning of the accident en route to Colorado to visit one of his sons who lives in Kremmling. The pilot initiated flight following services with Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) at 0818:23. When the pilot first contacted ARTCC, N68VT was at an altitude of 10,500 feet above mean sea level (msl) and a heading of 280 degrees. At 0937, the pilot was asked to initiate a climb to a cruising altitude of 12,500 feet msl. The pilot acknowledged, and reached the assigned cruising altitude at 0945.

At 0947:16, the pilot was asked to contact Denver Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON). At that time, N68VT was 42 nautical miles (nm) east/northeast of Denver. The aircraft was cruising on a heading of 260 degrees, with an altitude varying between 12,500 and 12,600 feet msl. According to TRACON, N68VT was receiving flight following services until 1015:31, at which time services were terminated. The pilot was advised to re-contact Denver ARTCC for further advisories, but he failed to do so. According to NTAP (National Track Analysis Program) data, the last radar "hit" of N68VT was at 1019:23. The aircraft was traveling on a heading of 275 degrees at an altitude of 12,600 feet msl up until the time the aircraft impacted the terrain and was last observed on radar.

According to several witnesses working at the City of Boulder Watershed property located several miles east of the accident site, they heard an airplane flying overhead near the time of the accident traveling east to west and low to the ground. One witness stated that when he heard the aircraft, there was "no change in the sound of the engine." Low cloud cover, snow and poor visibility at the time prevented them from being able to view the aircraft.

At 1943, an ALNOT (alert notice) was issued after the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination. A search of the surrounding airports for the missing airplane was conducted, but unsuccessful. An aerial search was initiated, and an ELT (emergency locator transmitter) signal was detected. The aircraft was located by the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group along the north face of Arapaho Peak at approximately 1430 the following afternoon.


The pilot, Kenneth Ray Messer, age 60, was born on March 04, 1939. He held Commercial Pilot Certificate 001694494, dated August 25, 1966, with an airplane single engine land, instrument rating. In addition, he held Flight Instructor Certificate 001694494, dated August 14, 1967, in a single engine land, instrument airplane. The pilot possessed a third class airman medical certificate, dated February 6, 1998, with the restriction, "Must have available glasses for near vision." The medical certificate was issued as a special issuance restriction under Title 14 CFR Part 67.19 due to the pilot's previous history of myocardial infarction, angina pectoris and coronary artery disease that required coronary artery bypass graft surgery and coronary angioplasty.

During the course of the investigation, the pilot's logbooks were never located. According to a representative of the pilot's insurance company, the pilot indicated on his aircraft insurance application dated June of 1998 that he had accumulated a total of 660 hours, 310 hours of which were in the V35A. According to the pilot's son, he had acquired another 20 hours of flight time within the previous year since that application was made.


The aircraft, N68VT, was manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1967. It was equipped with a Continental IO-550-B engine, rated at 300 horsepower, a McCauley 3-bladed, all-metal, constant speed propeller, and retractable landing gear. According to the aircraft maintenance records, the last annual inspections on the engine and airframe were on November 12, 1998, at a tachometer time of 1213 hours. The engine and propeller were installed in the aircraft on July 21, 1995, at a tachometer time of 698 hours. At the time of the accident, the digital display tachometer installed in the aircraft was destroyed, and the total time accrued could not be determined.


At 0946, weather conditions at Jefferson County Airport, Broomfield, Colorado (the closest weather reporting facility located 25 nautical miles east/southeast from the accident site), were winds from 040 degrees at 7 knots, 80 statute miles visibility, a broken ceiling at 7,000 feet, temperature 16 degrees C. (61 degrees F.), dew point 7 degrees C. (45 degrees F.), and an altimeter setting of 29.81 inches of mercury. At 1049, the weather conditions were reported as winds from 110 degrees at 10 knots, 80 statute miles visibility, a scattered ceiling at 7,000 feet, temperature 20 degrees C. (68 degrees F.), dew point 8 degrees C. (46 degrees F.), and an altimeter setting of 29.79 inches of mercury.

According to one of the witnesses working at the Boulder Watershed, at the time he heard the airplane flying above, a squall line approximately 3 miles wide running north/south was passing through the area, with upsloping winds at 10-15 mph and "some convection was occurring in the clouds indicated by some occasional hail and infrequent cloud to cloud lightening (sic)." The mountains to the west of his location and the direction in which the airplane was traveling were obscured. According to a witness who was hiking at an altitude of 12,700 feet along the south side of Arapaho Peak near the time of the accident, between the time period of 1000 to 1100, the weather included gusty winds, with "clouds passing by the top of the peak obscuring it periodically."


When the aircraft was originally located, the airplane was inverted and buried under snow on Arapaho Glacier along the north side of the peak on the east side of the Continental Divide. Witness marks at the scene indicated that the aircraft impacted rocky terrain covered by snow, then slid 200 yards down the slope and became inverted. Several other aircraft parts were found in the vicinity, which included both wing tip tanks, a section of engine cowling and a front seat. Several feet of snow fell subsequent to the accident. On June 9, the body of the occupant was found another 200 yards down slope from the main wreckage.

Due to the high snow levels and potential avalanche conditions, the on-scene examination of the aircraft was postponed until July 21, 1999. The aircraft impacted mountainous terrain at an elevation of 12,808 feet msl along a 45 degree inclining slope in a level flight attitude. The fuselage, with the wings still partially attached, had slid downhill another 600 yards. The engine was found several hundred feet forward from where the main wreckage came to rest. The scattered debris originally found near the fuselage had slid toward the bottom of the glacier.

At a Global Positioning System (GPS) location of 42 degrees 01.42 degrees north longitude, 105 degrees 38.51 degrees west latitude, one propeller blade was found embedded in rock with by a pronounced ground scar in the rock. Broken pieces of red lens were located approximately 17 feet to the left of the propeller blade, and green lens was found an equal distance to the right. The two additional blades were still attached to the propeller hub assembly of the engine, located 40 yards to the right of the initial impact point directly below the rock face. All three propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouging and chordwise striations.


An autopsy on the pilot (99A 73) was performed by John E. Meyer, M.D., with the Boulder County Coroner's Office, Boulder, Colorado, on June 15, 1999. A toxicological protocol (9900129001) was performed by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Carbon monoxide and cyanide analysis was not performed. Ethanol, at a level of 10 mg/dL, mg/hg, was detected in the kidney fluid; however, no ethanol was detected in the muscle fluid. No drugs were detected in the muscle.


In addition to the Federal Aviation Administration, parties to the investigation were the Raytheon Aircraft Company and Teledyne Continental Motors.

The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance company on August 26, 1999. No parts were retained.

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