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2020 plane crash near Telluride that killed newlyweds likely caused by pilot flying too low in mountains, NTSB says

An October 2020 plane crash near Telluride that left a young couple dead days after they got married was likely caused by the pilot’s decision to fly his single-engine propeller plane into an area with tall mountains before gaining enough altitude, according to federal air crash investigators. ( More...

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Dan Boss 7
The article is factually incorrect on several points. This was not the final NTSB report but merely the Aviation Investigation Factual Report.

Scott Perdue did 2 video analyses of what the probable cause was. And he obtained information from associates of the pilot. The pilot was not flying home, nor was he trying to climb over the ridges. He had done a sightseeing flight earlier that day, to identify a placement of the wedding photographer to shoot he and his wife flying low over Bridal Falls from the ground. the second flight was to obtain this wedding photograph. So then he got into trouble in a low, flat turn at high density altitude and the plane crashed in a stall/spin as a result. (S35 Telluride Accident Update)

This pilot violated the 3D's: Don't do anything Dumb, Dangerous or Different! (without planning, training and careful consideration of all the factors that can kill you)
George Wilhelmsen 6
It's hard to object to a factual article.
I've flown out of Denver centennial and out of Jackson Hole. To say that high density altitude affects aircraft performance is an understatement. You have to know your plane, use your POH, and make sure you have enough runway. I used 7000 feet of runway at Jackson Hole to get my Bonanza into the air safely, and it took me 15 minutes to safely climb out of the Teton Bowl that the airport is in.
It's a shame that they died - this was an accident that a well-trained pilot should have been able to avoid.
Bayouflier 6
The shocking part was reading that he was a Riddle grad and a pilot for a major airline.
rbt schaffer 17
Nothing shocking about that at all.. No mountains in Florida where he trained and lots of excess power on an airliner.. Very little steam left to climb crossing the divide at 10-13000 feet, and you must pay very close attention to wind as you approach the ridges and always give yourself an out to turn away and into a valley or safe path with an exit. Always approach that ridge at a 30-45 degree angle and pop over only when you have the clearance to do so. A few hundred fpm climb and a 500-1000 descending air don't mix. Crossed those ridges many times from C172's to light twins and each time there is a little pucker factor looking at those big rocks and the power they hold on you... Seen 2-3000 fpm lift and 2-3000 fpm sink crossing them and many times had to call ATC to deviate altitude or course.
rbt schaffer 8
OH, I said wind.. It creates lifting on the windward side, zero lift or sink over the ridge and sink on the leeward side of the ridge. A sunny slope may create some thermal lift. You need excess altitude approaching from the lee side and counterintuitive if you hit sink, you can dive slightly at the ridge to increase your speed (spend less time in the sink) always eying your escape route. The faster you can dive away, the faster you will get to better air away from the sink. The sink will lessen over the ridge as you marvel at the rocks a hundred or so feet below, you will cross and find lift on the other side and relief staring down the valley on the other side. Gave many a mountain check ride and flew sailplanes in the Rockies. Brings many good memories and unfortunately have read too many terrible incidents like this story.
David Beattie -9
An Embry Riddle Grad?! Yes, he crashed. But he was wearing a great pair of Aviator glasses and a nice leather jacket.
Richard Isbell 4
Ray Ban...
s20609 6
Single Piston Engine - Mountain Pilot Training and Preparation:
* Mountains BAD, Valleys GOOD
* Piston Power BAD, Altitude GOOD
* Just Married Delirium BAD, Planning and Judgement GOOD
Ahmed Taha 2
Martie Williams 5
I think that "the pilot flying too low in the mountains" was not likely, but DEFINITELY what killed the newlyweds.
The question would be "WHY was he too low in the mountains?", and I've seen a lot of good possibilities listed here.
John Taylor 1
Too low as in ground level of the mountain.
George Wilhelmsen 1
It's called "Get There-Itus"

They probably both had scheduled flights. Calling off is bad. So he launched probably when he shouldn't have.
Randall Bursk 9
Instructor Pilot at APA Airport Denver. One of our courses, Mountain Checkout in a C-172. Reasons mentioned by comments and a few not listed. Airline, down to Private Pilots are encouraged to take the course, or simply stop and talk to us for procedures and recommendations for flying Colorado mountains and destinations. Many of the Airports like Aspen, Telluride, Gunnison, Eagle, etc. are considered Special Airports, require training and qualification at the Airlines. Line pilots are accompanied by Check Pilots on first passenger trip. Simulator training is done in most cases. Google Special Airports, find videos worldwide. I live 15 miles from Telluride. APA has changed its name. 35 year retired airline pilot. Sometimes most experienced pilots flying a trip like Telluride for the first time. Miss information. Well known with departures, fly Southwest to gain altitude before turning towards High Terrain. He was a competent, professional.
Todd Bradshaw 4
I pulled the airport up in X-Plane being a pretty well-seasoned flight sim hobbyist. I tried two planes, Cessna 172 and the mentioned aircraft respectfully. Right off the runway past V2 both planes struggled beyond comfort dealing with the altitude alone. It was so bad it left me wondering how that plane got there in the first place other than hugging ridges and canyons. RBT Schaffer's description seems most accurate. For those aircraft, there's no way out or up there less a pilot flies low so the description seems odd to me. The simulation raised my eyebrows as to how dangerous it is. A general aviation pilot would be well served to fly it in the sim first. Just my two cents, and my condolences to the family.
rbt schaffer 3
Here's one you can't pull up any more.. I flew some friends into the old Breckenridge airport ~ 9400 ft high gravel strip in a T-206. It was a one way strip due to the blind valley to the East. We were getting a little beat up due to thermal bumps and a girl in back likely a bit oxygen deprived and napping woke up and said 'Are we going to die'... Only other words were 'Shut UP Amy'... Wasn't all that bad a trip really, but once committed and still at a few hundred ft altitude the go-no go decision to land is final... No shakey go around playing in a blind valley .. Committed to land while still at safe altitude and speed ... This airport no longer exists. 1974 -75?
2sheds 4
Density Altitude was 13600ft@TEX - 9100MSL. He departed westbound and turned immediately to east into the box canyon east of Telluride. Mountains to east are 12k to 13k then add density altitude. Where was his POH or common sense? He must have left them in FLorida where highest terrain is 350ft. That old Bananas needs a lot of care in those hills.
Very, very sad.
I learned to fly in the western mountains and you had to know that the terrain raises faster than most planes can climb. And, never try to cross the big ones (Sierra and CO Rockies) without a lot of altitude usually 2k+ ft. That eliminates a lot of our old airplanes.
James Simms 10
Immovable mountains will get you every time
Larry Horton 3
I am assuming that plane is not turbocharged as I find no mention of turbocharger in the aircraft specs. Not having any experience in mountain flying I am assuming turbocharged would make a big difference in high altitude mountain flying. Am I wrong in that assumption?
sparkie624 9
Why do they always reference "Single0engine propeller driven"... Doh.. Poor Reporting... The Pilot should have known better. Where the Bonanza is a Nice High Performance aircraft, it sounds as though the pilot was operating outside of his and the planes abilities. On note that seems to missing in the article is "Oxygen", no where does it mention that it was or was not in use and at that altitude, they should have certainly had it. Says there was no Distress Call Received... But all the controls were working, Electronics were checked good, I wonder if hypoxia could have set in and they never knew what happened or being unconscious!
2sheds 3
He wasn't flying long enough to suffer hypoxia unless he was hypoxic on the ground. He could have legally flown out of TEX and never would have needed O2. But...
The sad truth is he was inexperienced with western mtn flying and certainly was was behind the plane - about 5 mi.
wayne holder 1
btweston 1
Yeah. Screw them for describing the plane.
Dave Shaver 2
I can't second guess the reasons for the crash. From my house I can almost see where they landed. Right after the cash, looking at flight history for N4444K showed several sightseeing trips up the valley and turns in/around the face of Black Bear pass as the road comes down into Telluride. That history is no longer accessible on Flight Aware. As I recall, they made flights near the area of the crash the very same day they ultimately crashed.

Even now, the last flight shows they hardly climbed. Standard departure for TEX is down valley unless winds do not allow. Even if you take off up valley on 9, you turn right over the ski area and then head down valley. Only the fighter jets that train every other week over TEX flight straight up the valley and climb out.

Example of the right way to do it. These F16s have a bit more power. :) The plane in question crashed at the end of the valley where these guys power up and over to make a pass in Silverton.
linbb 4
Well guess that could have been but there was piece on TV about it and what led up to the accident. They wanted a certain picture of them flying by a backdrop. He was unable to climb out of where he chose to fly. It was a PLANNED event so it was by choice and poor pilot skills.
John Yarno 1
Air speed and altitude, I am told you must have both to fly. Another tragic accident, so sad.
hwh888 1
The sad part of this story is, it was on departure not arrival. TO & climb out are relatively simple tasks as compared to navigating thru mountains to the TDZ.
Mike Williams 1
What a marriage!
They should have taken any major airline or flown out of a flat state.
Adigun Samuel -3
An October 2020 plane crash near Telluride that left a young couple dead days after they got married was likely caused by the pilot’s decision to fly his single-engine propeller plane into an area with tall mountains before gaining enough altitude,


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