Flight accident


On January 27, a small Cirrus SR22 made a forced landing four miles from the Aspen airport\; near Woody Creek.

After pulling the aircraft’s parachute, the pilots and passengers walked away unharmed and were eventually found by the local Mountain Rescue team two hours later. The passengers were a husband and wife from Wisconsin. They were flying from Aspen to Eagle in terrible weather. It is unknown why the pilots made the rash decision to make an emergency landing, but according to local pilots, there were plenty of factors that could have contributed to the accident.

Luke Murphy, an experienced flight instructor who works with many AHS students, was able to provide more details about the accident.

“The pilot stated that his instruments went haywire and he thought the engine was compromised so there may have either been an engine indication problem or an actual problem with his engine,” Murphy said. “In addition, the weather was terrible for flying, making it very difficult for any pilot to stay in control of an aircraft. Why would the pilots choose to fly in terrible conditions? What were the final words to the control tower?” Unfortunately, the recordings in the NTSB have not been posted yet by the FAA, so it’s unclear what their intentions were.

A technical problem could be responsible for grounding the aircraft. “I’ve talked to a friend of mine about the engine because he used to own a Cirrus, and he said that they did not have a very good track record with the Continental engine,” Murphy stated.

It is a possibility that the pilots experienced an engine failure mid-flight, but there is another contributing factor. The majority of accidents that have occurred here in Aspen are due to the unique and treacherous terrain that encompasses the airport. Pilots often believe they have a clear shot at the 7,004-foot runway, the mountain’s unpredictable weather can suddenly roil their path and obscure their vision in the last most critical moments of an approach.

Knowing this, it is especially dangerous for inexperienced pilots to fly into Aspen airport. Another experienced pilot who teaches in AHS\; Kate Short, said, “People should talk with a local pilot and look ahead of the flight to get familiar with the new area.”

It was no surprise that a small aircraft maneuvering at low altitude in hazardous weather would have to make an emergency landing. Although there are still some questions to be answered about the accident.

Murphy brings up a good inquiry about the potential issues the pilots faced.

“The pilots were flying an instrument approach on take off that was given by the control tower, which means the aircraft must fly in a specific direction. It calls for a right turn heading 343 at take off until you get to 9000 feet, then the pilot must fly a heading of 273. So why were they so far off course? The aircraft’s path of travel was completely different from the directions given by the airport tower. Why were they flying so far from the Instrument approach in the first place? It is still a mystery to why the aircraft had made an emergency landing, and to why the aircraft strayed from its path of travel,” Murphy said.

The pilot followed protocol when faced with an emergency.

“Whatever happened the pilot made the correct decision because everybody’s okay,” Murphy explained.

Even if the reason behind the accident is still unknown, everyone walked away from the crash site unharmed due to the pilots’ wise decision to use the parachute. Due to the rural area of the crash site, the aircraft is still left in the deep snow four miles from the airport, likely to remain there until spring when Mountain Rescue can retrieve the vessel safely. For now, it will remain a mystery to why a Cirrus SR22 is nestled in the heaps of snow, encompassed by the grim rocky slopes.

“This is a challenging airport to fly in and out of, it’s important to learn about the terrain to know exactly how to operate in and out of the airport safely,” Short said.