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NTSB: Plane that crashed in southern Colorado was flying in formation with two other planes

The plane went down near Walsenburg on Dec. 8, killing the pilot.
Credit: NTSB

WALSENBURG, Colo. — A federal investigation has revealed a small airplane that crashed in southern Colorado, killing the pilot, last month had been flying in formation with two other planes before it went down.

According to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the planes departed from Meadow Lake Airport in Colorado Springs on the morning of Dec. 8 and headed south. 

The report says as they flew past Pueblo, they began a descent toward Cucharas Reservoir northeast of Walsenburg and prepared for a low-level maneuvering flight. 

The lead pilot executed a left turn and descent toward a river canyon that extended north of the reservoir, the report says, and the other pilots reported they also entered a descent and ran into strong winds and turbulence above the canyon rim. 

The report says the lead pilot's plane descended below the canyon rim in a steep left bank turn when the other pilots saw its left wing hit the edge of the canyon at high speed before it crashed in the canyon. 

After the crash, the report says, the other pilots circled the area, contacted air traffic control to report the location of the crash and then returned to the airport.

NTSB said an examination of the crash site revealed the forward fuselage of the crashed plane impacted rocky terrain, the report says, and the plane broke into pieces. 

The pilot was the only person on board, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Huerfano County Coroner's Office identified him as 70-year-old Michael Cranford. 

The report says the crashed plane was a Vans RV-4. According to the manufacturer's website, the aircraft is a kit plane made for racing and aerobatic competitions. 

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