Pilots Observed The Accident Airplane’s Left Wing Contact The Edge Of The Canyon

Location: Walsenburg, CO Accident Number: CEN22FA064
Date & Time: December 8, 2021, 10:13 Local Registration: N456MC
Aircraft: Vans RV-4 Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On December 8, 2021, about 1013 mountain standard time, a Vans RV-4 airplane, N456MC, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Walsenburg, Colorado. The pilot sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

According to two other pilots involved in the flight, the accident flight was a three-airplane formation flight with position changes planned during the course of the flight. The three airplanes departed the Meadow Lake Airport (FLY), Colorado Springs, Colorado, and headed south with the accident airplane as the lead airplane. As the airplanes transitioned south past Pueblo, Colorado, they began a descent towards the Cucharas Reservoir, northeast of Walsenburg. The airplanes were in a right echelon route formation and were prepared to go to a trail formation for a low-level maneuvering flight. About 1 mile north of the reservoir, the accident pilot directed the two other pilots to “go trail”, and he executed a left turn and descent towards a river canyon that extended north of the reservoir. The pilots reported they entered a descent and encountered strong surface winds and turbulence above the canyon rim. The accident pilot’s airplane descended below the canyon rim in a steep left bank turn. The pilots observed the accident airplane’s left wing contact the edge of the canyon at a high speed. The airplane fragmented and came to a stop in the canyon. After the accident, the pilots circled the area, contacted air traffic control to report the accident location, and then returned to FLY.

A review of the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data revealed the flight tracks for the three airplanes were consistent with the witness reports. The accident airplane’s data ended about 1 mile west of the accident site.

Postaccident examination of the accident site revealed airplane debris consistent with the left wing and wing tip were at the initial impact area. The airplane’s forward fuselage impacted rocky terrain, and the airplane fragmented into multiple sections. The engine, fractured composite propeller blades, and the main landing gear were separated from the fuselage and came to rest between the initial impact point and main wreckage. The main wreckage consisted of the cockpit/cabin, empennage, and inboard sections of the left and right wings.FMI: www.ntsb.gov