The Airplane First Impacted Emerald Mountain About 8,172 ft MSL

Location: Steamboat Springs, CO Accident Number: CEN22FA069
Date & Time: December 10, 2021, 18:09 Local Registration: N744Z
Aircraft: Piper PA46-500TP Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On December 10, 2021, about 1809 mountain standard time, a Piper PA46-500TP, N744Z, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight.

A review of archived Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) data revealed that the airplane departed Cody, Wyoming, about 1705 for the estimated one-hour flight to Steamboat Springs/Bob Adams Field (SBS). FAA air traffic control (ATC) data showed that the pilot was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan and was cleared by ATC to conduct the RNAV (GPS)-E instrument approach procedure at SBS about 1757.

For terrain clearance, the procedure required the airplane to cross the final approach fix PEXSA at or above 9,700 ft mean sea level (MSL) and WAKOR, the next waypoint located 2.2 nm from runway 32 threshold, at or above 8,740ft MSL. The ADS-B data showed that the accident airplane crossed PEXSA about 9,100 ft MSL and WAKOR about 8,200 ft MSL respectively.

The procedure allowed for a descent to the minimum descent altitude of 8,140 ft MSL or 1,258 ft above ground level (AGL) after passing WAKOR. The missed approach point for the procedure was the runway 32 approach end and required a climbing left turn to 11,300 ft MSL and proceeding direct to the HABRO waypoint to enter a holding pattern.

Immediately after passing WAKOR, the airplane made a left turn and descended to an altitude of about 7,850 ft MSL. The airplane subsequently began to climb and the last ADS-B data point recorded at 1808:49 indicated an altitude of about 8,125 ft MSL and was located about 3.5 miles north of the accident site.

The airplane first impacted Emerald Mountain about 8,172 ft MSL on a heading of about 164° as evidenced by broken and cut tree branches. After the initial impact, the airplane bounced and came to rest about 8,216 ft MSL, and sustained substantial damage to the fuselage, tail, and both wings.

The METAR at the time of the accident indicated a cloud ceiling of 1,200 ft above ground level (AGL) and 1sm visibility. The instrument approach procedure for a category A aircraft required 1 ¼ sm flight visibility for landing and 1 ½ sm for category B aircraft. A detailed wreckage examination is pending.