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N8505E accident description

New Mexico map... New Mexico list
Crash location 35.950000°N, 104.933333°W
Reported location is a long distance from the NTSB's reported nearest city. This often means that the location has a typo, or is incorrect.
Nearest city Las Vegas, NM
35.593933°N, 105.223897°W
29.5 miles away
Tail number N8505E
Accident date 22 Jun 2003
Aircraft type Air Tractor AT-802A
Additional details: None

NTSB Factual Report

On June 22, 2003, at 1036 mountain daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-802A, N8505E, registered to and operated by Aeronautical Technologies, Inc., of Clovis, New Mexico, and under the operational control of the State of New Mexico Forestry Division, was substantially damaged when it struck a tree while dropping fire retardant on a forest fire near Las Vegas, New Mexico. The airline transport pilot was not injured. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the aerial application flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 137. The local flight originated from Las Vegas, New Mexico, at 1023.

According to the accident report submitted by the Department of the Interior's Office of Aircraft Services (OAS), the pilot was dropping a mixture of water and LCA-R (trade name Fire-Trol, usually composed of ammonium phosphate, clay thickener, corrosion inhibitor, and colorant) on the Monument fire, located between the 7,000 and 8,000 foot level in the Maxson Crater, about 20 miles north of Las Vegas. Approximately 80 percent of the ground foliage were Pinion Pine and Juniper trees, interspersed with several dead snags that extended 30 to 40 feet above the live canopy.

OAS investigators interviewed the pilot. He said that prior to the day's missions, he had conducted reconnoitered the fire area to determine routes of ingress and egress, winds, terrain, and hazards to flight. The first sortie was made at 0801. The accident occurred on the fourth mission. He lowered flaps to 20 degrees and slowed the airplane to 100 to 120 knots in preparation for the drop (standard configuration). He passed the IP (initial point) in a slight right bank with a 500 to 600 foot per minute rate of descent and approximately a 3-degree glide angle. He momentarily diverted his attention to smoke rising from the target area. When he looked back, he saw a dead snag immediately in front of the airplane. He was unable to avoid hitting the tree due to its proximity and his rate of closure. The impact deflected the right elevator full down. The airplane pitched nose down and struck a second tree. The pilot regained limited control and returned to the Las Vegas Airport, where he made an uneventful landing.

Postaccident inspection revealed substantial damage to the right elevator.

NTSB Probable Cause

the pilot's failure to maintain obstacle clearance and visual lookout. Contributing factors were his attention being diverted and the trees.

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