VFR Accident Involving Cessna-172 and Sonex Xenos Under Investigation

A mid-air collision has claimed three lives near Vance Brand Airport (LMO) in Longmont, Colorado—a home-rule municipality approximately 25-nautical-miles north of Denver. The accident occurred just before 09:00 MDT on the morning of Saturday, 17 September 2022, and involved a Cessna 172 Skyhawk and a Sonex Xenos—a light, aluminum, low-wing, kit-aircraft marketed by Oshkosh-based Sonex Aircraft.

After receiving numerous reports of an aircraft accident, first-responders from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department, Colorado State Patrol, Rocky Mountain Fire Rescue, and Boulder Rural Rescue arrived on-scene to find two separate crash sites—one in a field, and the other in a stand of trees approximately three-nautical-miles south of LMO.

The wreckage of the Cessna 172 contained the bodies of the aircraft’s two occupants. The Sonex’s pilot—and sole occupant—perished as well. The identities of the decedents—three adult men, all reportedly from Colorado’s Front Range region—have yet to be disclosed.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a preliminary statement, has confirmed the collision occurred in VFR conditions. Neither aircraft was equipped with collision avoidance equipment—nor obligated by regulation to be so.

Local officials revealed during a post-accident press-conference that the Cessna 172 had departed from Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC) in Broomfield, Colorado—approximately 15-nautical-miles south of Longmont. The Sonex’s point of origin was reported to be Platte Valley Airpark (18V) in Hudson, Colorado—approximately 22-nautical-miles southeast of Longmont. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the mid-air plane crash was due to a Collision between Sonex Xenos (N255BF) & Cessna 172S Skyhawk (N2117Y).

Sean Tufts, who witnessed the accident remarked: “It looked like it was in trouble, ’cause planes don’t go straight down. There was no fireball, nothing, it just crumpled.”

Longmont resident Jeff Wolcott reported hearing the aircrafts’ engines: “Then a loud POP, a few seconds later, a louder POP, and then CRASH.” Mr. Wolcott called the experience “hard to process.” “Life is so short,” Wolcott reflected. “How fast it can happen, just like that.”

Cary Hayes, whose home is approximately equidistant from the two crash-sites, asserted:  “We heard a loud POP, then my neighbor texted me; he saw the planes hit mid-air, right over our house.” Hayes—who likened the sound of the collision to a gunshot, and described the instance as “super scary” and “hitting very close to home”—added: “It’s surprising it could happen on a beautiful, sunny morning like today.

Local authorities and the NTSB continue to investigate the accident.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov