Double Fatal Crash of Piper Comanche

This video is a rare crosspost from our sister channel, @What You Haven’t Seen, which covers transportation safety. This story is fitting for both channels, as it is told through the lens of police body-worn camera footage. If you are interested in seeing more like this, visit @What You Haven’t Seen.

On October 20, 2019, about 8:45 a.m. local time, a Piper PA-24, N7742P, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Angel Fire, NM. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured.

According to friends of the pilot who stated they had helped with the refueling and preflight of the accident airplane that morning, this was his first time flying into Angel Fire Airport (AXX). The pilot stated to his friends that he was going to depart to the south and then head back toward the airport because of the winds and to gain altitude. The pilot started the engine and let it warm up for 10-15 minutes. He then taxied to the departure end of runway 17 where he performed an engine run-up and magneto checks. The pilot’s friends watched as the airplane started its takeoff roll and became airborne just past halfway down the runway. Shortly thereafter, they saw the plane’s landing gear retract, and lost sight of the plane behind the parallel taxiway, which rises in elevation above the runway.

An eyewitness was driving north when she saw the plane flying south from the airport. The plane was very low and it appeared to be struggling to remain in flight. The plane turned right to fly over the road and toward the witness, who drove her vehicle into a ditch alongside the highway. As the plane was descending, it appeared to the witness that the plane was preparing to land on the road. The witness noticed power lines crossing the road in front of her location and hoped that the plane was going avoid hitting them. As the plane approached the power lines, the plane pitched up and turned to the west, impacting trees, a building, and terrain. Several other witnesses saw the plane as is departed the airport and described its flight as unstable.

The 65-year-old pilot held a commercial certificate with ratings for multiengine land, single engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent third-class FAA medical certificate was issued on 3/7/19. At that time, he reported 1,000 flight hours, 15 of those in the last 6 months. The pilot’s logbooks were not located during the investigation. There was no evidence found that showed that the pilot had any mountain flying training or experience.

The plane’s two fuel tanks had a total capacity of 60 gallons. According to airport personnel, on the morning of the accident flight, the plane was fueled with ~20 gallons of fuel, which filled both tanks. Manufacturer performance data for takeoff distance exist for altitudes from sea level up to 6,000′ based on standard temperature and pressure. The expected takeoff ground roll could not be determined for the accident takeoff, as the environmental conditions exceeded those in the calculations provided by the manufacturer when the plane was manufactured. Approximate weight and balance requirements were calculated and were found to be within the normal operating envelope. The airplane would have experienced about a 9 knot crosswind and about a 2 knot tailwind.

A weather study using the approximate airport elevation, temperature, dew point temperature and altimeter from AXX, calculated density altitude at 845 at the surface to be 9,360′ msl.

At 845 MDT, about the time of the accident, AIRMET TANGO was issued for moderate turbulence below FL180, strong surface winds and LLWS potential for areas that included the accident site.

AXX is at 8,379′ msl. It has one runway, 17/35, which is 8,900′ x 100′. Runway 17 has an avg uphill gradient of .64% and a difference of about 57′ between its ends. Signage before entering the runway cautions pilots about the field elevation and reminds pilots of their airplane’s performance at that elevation. The airport directory describes the airport as in a mountain valley, with rising terrain in all directions, strong gusty crosswinds possible, and high-density altitude probable.

There was no evidence of in-flight airframe, engine, or flight control malfunction or failure.

According to the pilot’s autopsy report, the cause of death was blunt trauma. The manner of death was an accident.

The autopsy identified moderate-to-severe multivessel coronary artery disease with two coronary artery stents present. There was an area of old heart muscle scarring and microscopic changes consistent with old heart attack. Amlodipine, metoprolol, and atorvastatin were detected in heart blood and urine, as well as clopidogrel in urine.

The NTSB investigation is ongoing.

00:00 Accident video
01:04 Body camera
08:07 Friends, Witness
10:40 Crime scene
11:49 Witness
18:00 FAA interview
24:47 Video #2, investigatory material
36:52 Scene photos

The title sequence misidentifies the aircraft as a Cherokee. It is a Comanche.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2tzGFZVvnE ** (Disclaimer: This video content is intended for educational and informational purposes only) **

Author: rafael.nieves

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25 thoughts on “Double Fatal Crash of Piper Comanche

  1. No thanks, I hate flying. Saw Snort's crash who missed his control lock during preflight. Just the thought of burning alive. I'll stick to driving and it wont be an electric car that can't be put out by the fire dept.

  2. The circumstance is extremely sad. It is interesting as a lay person to see for the first time what an aircraft accident report looks like.

  3. That officer did a fabulous job handling that whole situation!! Bless that couple and their family members that they left behind!! πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»

  4. Very sad, although this Husband and Wife are together in the Spirit Realm, hopefully their spirits will realise they have transcended …. This happened to my Sister's Ex-Partner when his light aircraft came down in the middle of Las Vegas, not sure the exact place but i know he hit a couple of Car's, he was not badly injured nor anyone else, unsure if its on-line but his name is Barry Naft of Las Vegas………..

  5. Too much regulation on aircraft will always cause crashes, it’s asinine the government restricts aviation so much, it literally could be as simple as driving a car at this point if the feds didn’t want all aircraft to bring them military contracts

  6. Why would everyone run out to a fire empty handed? I’ve seen things like this before where there are plenty fire extinguishers around and folks just standing around looking at the fire. We are a strange creature.

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