LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — A flight instructor who was in a plane that crashed over Horsetooth Reservoir this month told investigators they had mechanical issues, but investigators were unable to find any "binding or mechanical anomalies," a preliminary report says.
The instructor's brother was on the plane with him. Both suffered minor injuries in the Sept. 11 crash, but the plane had "substantial damage," according to the preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The day after the crash, the flight instructor stated that during the flight over Horsetooth Reservoir, an engine power issue occurred, and in an effort to avoid landing on the water or hitting boats, he elected to make a climbing right turn to the west, away from the lake, and the airplane impacted rising terrain, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing.
In a written statement on Sept. 15, the instructor reported that he and his brother were flying the airplane east of Horsetooth Reservoir, between Fort Collins and the reservoir, and his brother reduced power to “observe more of the scenery.”
Shortly after, his brother told him that he could not climb due to a jammed elevator. The flight instructor stated that he took control of the airplane and confirmed that the elevator was jammed and he used power and trim to climb.
In an effort to avoid congested areas, they maneuvered to the reservoir and attempted to free the jammed elevator by “wiggling the flight control in and out,” which resulted in the airplane pitching down, the NTSB report says. He stated that he elected to fly west into the valley to look for a landing area but ultimately hit a tree.
Photographs provided by a witness, however, show the airplane low over the water as it approached one of only three visible boats, the report says. At first, the airplane appeared headed toward the shore but made a left turn toward the first boat, making a very low pass over it.
The airplane made a steep climb, followed by a steep right turn, and then low over the second boat, according to the report.
After passing the second boat, the airplane appeared to depart toward a valley.
A Federal Aviation Administration air safety inspector completed an on-scene examination of the airplane. During the examination, flight control continuity was established from the control yokes to the elevator control surface with no binding or mechanical anomalies noted, the NTSB report says.
A visual examination of the other flight controls revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. A detailed engine and airframe examination is pending.
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