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N21390 accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location Unknown
Nearest city Taos, NM
36.407249°N, 105.573066°W
Tail number N21390
Accident date 30 Nov 2000
Aircraft type Cessna 182P
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report


On November 30, 2000, at 0930 mountain standard time, a Cessna 182P, N21390, was destroyed when it impacted in a side canyon on Frazier Mountain at 11,300 feet above mean sea level (msl), approximately 28 miles east of Taos, New Mexico. The commercial pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for this personal flight operating under Title 14 CFR Part 91 and no flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Taos at 0915 with an intended destination of Monte Vista, Colorado.

According to the person in Monte Vista, who the pilot was going to do business with, the pilot called just prior to take off from Taos and said "they were going to do a little sightseeing en route and would be later than expected."

According to witnesses located at the Taos ski area located approximately 1 mile west of the accident site, the airplane turned up a narrow canyon across the valley from the ski area and disappeared from their view while in a steep left turn towards the entrance to the canyon. The wreckage was later spotted against the canyon wall by telescope from the ski area.


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating in airplane single engine land and an airplane instrument rating. The certificate was issued on November 8, 1996, and the last update recorded was on December 16, 1996.

At the time of the accident, the pilot held a second-class medical certificate issued on May 13, 1999, with the limitation that he possess glasses for near vision correction.

No pilot logs were located during the investigation. According to the pilot's application for his last medical certificate, he had approximately 1,300 hours of flight time, and had flown 80 hours in the 6 months preceding the date of the physical. FAA records provided information that the pilot registered the airplane in his name on October 23, 1997; however, his flight experience in the airplane could not be established.


The airplane was a 1972 Cessna 182P, serial number 18261604, powered by a Continental O-470-R, normally aspirated, horizontally opposed, six cylinder engine rated at 230 brake horsepower at 2,600 revolutions per minute on a standard day at sea level. The propeller was a constant speed McCauley model number 2A34C203-B. The blade model was G-90DCH-8.

Review of the aircraft, engine, and propeller logbooks indicated that the most recent annual inspection was completed on September 25, 2000.

A fuel slip provided information that the aircraft was last fueled on November 18, 2000 with 35.7 gallons of 100-octane low lead aviation fuel. According to the fixed base operator in Taos, the main fuel tanks were topped off.

Calculations based on fuel load, occupant weight and location, and other items aboard the aircraft provided information that the aircraft center of gravity and gross weight were within the performance envelope.


Recorded weather at the ski area at the time of the accident was clear skies, temperature 18 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind from 250 degrees magnetic heading at 28 knots with gusts to 39 knots.

Following location of the wreckage, a New Mexico State Police helicopter attempted to access the area. The pilot was unable to fly into the canyon where the accident occurred due to winds that he described as being "down the canyon in excess of 50 knots."


The accident site was on a 35-degree south-facing slope at 11,300 feet msl on 12,163-foot Frazier Mountain. The terrain was covered with Aspen trees that ranged up to a foot in diameter. Snow depth ranged from several inches to depths above 30 inches.

The aircraft track through the trees to impact with the terrain was on a westerly heading and at a down angle in excess of 30 degrees. The trees bore numerous cuts with several being cut off leaving witness marks that resembled knife like cuts. There was no fire.

The wings, engine, and empennage were torn off during impact and the cabin area was torn open and crushed. Control continuity could not be established; however, the breaks in the control system cables and torque tubes were consistent with overload type separation. The flaps were in the retracted position. Trim position could not be established.

Propeller blade 'A', serial number KH 225, was bent forward about 90-degrees 10 inches outboard of the cuff and twisted toward low pitch. It bore leading edge gouges and chordwise scratches and abrasions. Propeller blade 'B, serial number KH 236, contained an 'S' curve with the tip bent forward and bore leading edge gouges and chordwise abrasions.


The engine was examined on February 8, 2001. All engine mounts were fractured. The sump was crushed inward. The induction crossover tube was crushed. The magnetos were in place. The oil filter was partially crushed. The bottom of number 5 cylinder had fin damage. The right side portion of the induction system was broken off. The rocker box covers were broken off of cylinders 1, 2, and 3. The magnetos were tested and produced spark at all leads. All cylinders produced "thumb" compression.


An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Office of the Medical Investigator, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on December 1, 2000. Toxicology tests conducted by the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute were negative.


The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's insurance carrier on February 8, 2001.

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's failure to maintain terrain clearance while maneuvering in a narrow canyon. Contributing factors were the down slope winds in excess of 50 knots and the pilot's improper decision to enter the canyon given the wind conditions.

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