NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Los Alamos Plane Crash

NTSB News:

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its “Preliminary Report” on the Dec. 8 plane crash near Los Alamos County Airport:

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA077
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 08, 2013 in Los Alamos, NM
Aircraft: AVIAT AIRCRAFT INC A-1C-200, registration: N80MF
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 8, 2013 about 0810 mountain standard time (MDT), an Aviat Aircraft Inc., Husky, A-1C-200 airplane, N80MF, impacted terrain near the Los Alamos County Airport (KLAM), Los Alamos, New Mexico. The private rated pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to Blackhawk Leasing LLC, Harmony, Minnesota, and operated by a private individual. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 cross-country flight. The flight was originating from KLAM at the time of the accident.

Two witnesses reported seeing the airplane. The first witness reported seeing the airplane appear out of whirling snow and then make a 180-degree turn. The second witness reported he saw the airplane about 100 feet in the air and then make a steep left bank turn before disappearing from sight.

The accident site was located about 900 feet south of the airport’s runway, in a lightly wooded ravine. The wreckage area consisted of several impact/ground scars about 25 feet in front of the wreckage. The airplane came to rest in an upright position, turned about 180-degrees and facing the first impact point on a westerly heading. A post-crash fire consumed much of the airplane. After initial documentation and examination of the wreckage site, the engine was removed for examination at a nearby facility.

The Los Alamos (KLAM) airport is a non-towered airport. It has a single 6,000 feet by 120 feet, east-west (09 and 27) runway. It also notes that all landings are to the west and all takeoffs to the east. The airport also has a restricted area (R-5101) on the south side; west go-arounds or missed approaches are to turn right, to avoid the restricted area.

According to aviation experts, preliminary reports are very basic and usually filed after the field investigation is completed but before the months of tedious analysis. This Preliminary Report  is essentially the documentation that opens the file on the NTSB investigation. The fact that the plane’s engine was removed for examination is is considered routine for this type of crash.

Two additional reports are expected to follow.  In about 12-15 months, NTSB will issue a “Factual Report.”  That will be the most interesting report as it will summarize everything found in the investigation. That report will be followed months later by a finding of “Probable Cause,” which is a very brief formal opinion of what caused the crash and any contributing factors.