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When a plane crashed after takeoff from Los Alamos Airport Dec. 8, it marked the first time there had been a fatality here in the past 30 years, according to the National Transportation Safety Board database, which is on its website.
The NTSB has computer archives back to the early 1980s.
By plugging in Los Alamos, N.M., to the database, the NTSB has investigated 10 previous incidents. The airport, however, opened in 1947 and records were not available until the early 1980s.
The NTSB still is investigating the crash that killed two out-of-state men.
The preliminary report did not offer too many clues into what caused the crash but it quoted a witness as saying it took a steep left bank turn before disappearing from sight.
The report said “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.”
Here is a look at other incidents the NTSB has investigated at the Los Alamos Airport in the past 29 years.
Oct. 28, 2007: According to the pilot’s statement, during his approach to Los Alamos, he attempted to extend the landing gear. During the gear extension, the pilot noted that “something did not sound right, and (I) did not get a gear down indication in the cockpit.” The pilot cycled the landing gear approximately “10 to 15 times in various speeds, power settings, g-loads, and attitudes” with no result.
The pilot attempted to extend the landing gear manually, again with no result.
The pilot then decided to fly the airplane to the airport in Santa Fe, which has a control tower, and had the tower controllers visually verify that the landing gear was down. The tower controller at Santa Fe advised the pilot that the airplane’s nose landing gear was not extended and the nose gear doors were closed.
After several more unsuccessful attempts to troubleshoot the problem, the pilot returned to Los Alamos and landed the airplane with the nose gear retracted, resulting in substantial damage. The pilot was uninjured.
Probable cause: The binding of the nose landing gear doors for undetermined reasons, resulting in the pilot having to make a nose gear up landing.
Nov. 6, 2006: The airplane, a Beech P35, approached the airport from the north. At a local reporting location for airport, the pilot reported on the common traffic advisory (CTAF) frequency his position, altitude, and intention to land. The pilot completed his pre-landing checks approximately 1/2 miles from the runway 27 threshold and did not note any other aircraft or objects on the runway.
Approximately 10 feet above the runway, the pilot began to initiate his landing flare when he heard a “clunk” sound. The airplane began what the pilot thought was his landing roll; however, his airplane was still 6 to 7 feet above the runway. The pilot then noticed his airplane begin to turn to the right and he attempted to correct to the left.
Subsequently, the pilot observed another airplane underneath his airplane. Both airplanes turned to the right and came to rest on the runway. The pilot did not receive any transmissions from other aircraft in the area at the time of his approach and landing. The pilot of the other airplane, a Beech K35, reported that while en route with flight following from air traffic control, he and his passenger reviewed the airport chart because it was an “unfamiliar airport.”
The Beech K35 also approached the airport from the north, and he reported his position, altitude and intentions. During the approach, the pilot and passenger did not hear over the radio or see any other aircraft in the area.
Probable cause: The failure of both pilots to maintain adequate visual lookout during the visual approach. A contributing factor was the failure of the N5368E’s pilot to communicate his intentions on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency.
June 23, 2000: The pilot was completing a flight review and performing a full stop landing at the airport where the aircraft was based. The aircraft went off the end of the runway during landing roll and struck the blast fence. The collision destroyed the aircraft; however, the private pilot and flight instructor check pilot were not injured.
Probable cause: The pilot’s misjudgment of distance/speed resulting in an overrun and subsequent collision with a blast fence. Contributing factors were high density altitude, a tailwind, and the blast fence.
April 28, 2000: During approach for landing at the completion of a cross-country flight, the pilot noted the UNICOM reported the wind was calm but the windsock stuck straight out. During the landing attempt, the aircraft bounced and as it departed the side of the runway into dirt the pilot attempted to abort the landing. After a climb was initiated, a steep bank was made to avoid striking the airport perimeter fence.
The aircraft then settled, in a wings level attitude, onto the ground causing the main landing gear to collapse and substantial damage to the airframe. The pilot reported the wind as variable at 10 knots with no gusts. Density altitude at the time was approximately 9,600 feet.
Probable cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the aircraft after initiating a go-around following a hard bounced landing. Factors were variable shifting winds and a high-density altitude.
June 1, 1998: The pilot was performing a wheel landing on runway 27 (5,500 ft. x 75 ft., elevation 7,171 feet) which is located on top a mesa with trees lining the south side. He stated that he requested an airport advisory which gave the wind at S-SE for 10 knots with gusts to 20 knots. When the airplane touched down, it began to ‘weathervane,’ and it exited the runway to the left striking a ditch and fence. The density altitude was 10,459 feet, at the time of the accident.
Probable cause: The pilot’s inadequate compensation for the wind conditions. Contributing factors were the crosswinds, the fence, and the ditch.
Aug. 10. 1997: While on final approach to runway 27 at the Los Alamos Airport, about 3 hours 45 minutes after takeoff from Chandler, Arizona, the aircraft’s engine lost power due to fuel exhaustion.
Examination of the aircraft revealed that there was no breach in the fuel system. The carburetor fuel bowl contained approximately 2 ounces of fuel, and only a couple drops of fuel drained out of the fuel line. Approximately 2.9 gallons of fuel were drained from both fuel tanks. The aircraft had two standard wing fuel tanks with a total capacity of 26 gallons of fuel. Total usable fuel for all flight conditions was 22.5 gallons. Total unusable fuel was 3.5 gallons.
Probable cause: The fuel exhaustion due to the pilot’s failure to refuel. A factor was the lack of suitable terrain for the forced landing.
In the 1980s, the NTSB investigated a crash where an instructor was giving cross-wind instruction to a student. The aircraft touched down hard, breaking off the right main gear. The plane skidded to the right side of the landing area until coming to rest in the airport boundary fence.
In August 1984, a pilot attempted a landing and the pilot said he touched down and the aircraft skipped to the left. He applied power to go around but determined that air speed was too slow. He attempted to stop using the brakes but the aircraft skipped to the left until the left wing hit the fence post.
In July 1984, an attempted downwind takeoff was aborted and the nose of the plane ended up in the terrain near the end of the runway, Winds at the time were 18 to 25 knots. Four people on the plane but none were injured.
And in September 1983, an aircraft took off but was unable to climb above the local mountainous terrain. The pilot attempted to make a 180-degree turn but the aircraft stalled and crashed on Redondo Peak.
Four people were on the plane and one was slightly injured.