NTSB Identification: CEN14FA163
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, March 19, 2014 in Aurora, CO
Aircraft: SMITH AEROSTAR 601P, registration: N90464
Injuries: 1 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 March 19, 2014, about 1650 mountain daylight time, N90464, a Smith Aerostar 601P twin engine airplane was destroyed when it collided with terrain while conducting low level aerobatics near Aurora, Colorado. The airline transport rated pilot/registered owner was fatally injured. No flight plan was filed for the local flight that departed Front Range Airport (FTG), Denver, Colorado, at a yet to be determined time. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
A witness stated that the pilot planned to fly over his home that afternoon to show him and another mutual friend the airplane he recently purchased. The witness, who was also a retired military pilot, said he was standing outside his home about ¼-mile from the accident site, when he first saw the airplane approach from east to west. The airplane flew over a set of power lines and cleared them by about five feet at an estimated speed of 200-230 knots. The witness said the airplane then made a sharp right hand turn toward the north before it pitched straight up with the nose of the airplane going "pure vertical" and performed a "hammerhead stall." The witness said the pilot kicked full right rudder and the nose of the airplane turned toward the ground and the airplane descended. The witness said the airplane recovered from the descent about 20-feet-high above the ground. The airplane then headed toward the south and flew over the witness's home about 20-feet-high over the roof. The witness said that as the airplane flew over his home, he was yelling at the pilot to "Just stop!" He said the pilot then made two more "extremely low" passes. On the fifth and final pass, the pilot again flew east to west and cleared the witness's home by about five feet, before making a right, 90-degree right hand turn to the north. The witness said he then ran around the side of his home, when he heard a shotgun-like sound followed by an explosion. He thought the pilot may have had overstressed the airplane. The witness then saw smoke, realized the airplane had crashed, and responded to the accident site.
Three Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors were driving home from work when they each observed the airplane flying low and erratic over a residential area. The inspectors pulled over on the highway so they could capture the airplane's registration number when it suddenly impacted terrain. They immediately responded to the accident site.
Several other people witnessed the airplane flying low over their homes and called 911. Some of these witnesses took video of the airplane. A preliminary review of these videos revealed the airplane was making steep turns at a low altitude before it impacted terrain.
The airplane wreckage was examined at the site on March 20, 2014. All major components of the airframe were accounted for at the site. The airplane came to rest in a rolling and partially wooded field on a heading of 360 degrees, at a ground elevation of 6,154 feet mean sea level (msl).
The initial impact point was a tree that was about 100-feet-tall. As the airplane continued along the wreckage path it continued to impact trees before impacting the ground. Numerous broken tree limbs were found along the wreckage path and some exhibited 45-degree angular cuts with black pain transfer marks.
At the point where the airplane impacted the ground, there were two impact craters in direct line with each other. Embedded in the first impact crater was the right propeller assembly and in the second crater was the left propeller assembly. All three blades remained attached to their respective hubs for each propeller assembly. Several slash marks were also observed on the southern edge of each impact crater. Just to the south of the first impact crater was a long ground scar consistent with the length/ width of the airplane's wing. Embedded in the dirt near the end of this scar were pieces of green navigational lens.
The main wreckage came to rest several hundred feet forward of the ground impact scars. From the initial impact point with trees to where the main wreckage came to rest was about 1,100 feet. The main wreckage consisted of the empennage, the center section of the fuselage, both wings and the cockpit. The center section was inverted and the main landing gear was retracted. The center section sustained extensive impact and post-accident fire damage.
The empennage sustained impact damage but no fire damage. It remained partially connected to the center section via flight control cables. Flight control continuity was established for the elevator and rudder to the center section; however, due to extensive impact damage, flight control continuity was not established for the ailerons or flaps.
Examination of both engines revealed no mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation prior to impact.
The pilot held an airline transport pilot rating for single and multi-engine airplane. His last FAA first class medical was issued on March 8, 2014. At that time, the pilot reported a total of 26,000 flight hours. The pilot was also an FAA certified airframe and power plant mechanic.
Weather reported at Buckley Air Force base at 1655 was reported as wind from 240 degrees at 6 knots, scattered clouds at 22,000 feet, visibility 10 miles, temperature 12 degrees C, dewpoint -18 degrees C, and a barometric pressure setting of 29.97.