May 28 Accident - NTSB Preliminary Report

Unfortunately - very little information here…

NTSB Identification: FTW02FA162

Accident occurred Tuesday, May 28, 2002 at Angel Fire, NM
Aircraft:Cirrus Design Corp. SR-20, registration: N901CD
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On May 28, 2002, approximately 1630 mountain daylight time, a Cirrus SR-20 airplane, N901CD, registered to and operated by private individuals, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain near Angel Fire, New Mexico. The commercial pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed for the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The cross-country flight originated from the Angel Fire Airport, Angel Fire, New Mexico at 1627.

Anyone have any more information on this accident? I’ve flown out of Taos, and am familiar with the other side of the mountains, but I’m not sure about Angel Fire (which is on the East side). Is it a tough airport to fly out of? Given the big airplanes that fly out of there I’m kind of surprised that somebody hit a mountain in a small airplane. There’s plenty of room to maneuver as I understand it. I wonder if it was pilot incap. or something rare like that.


Angel Fire is up high (almost 8400’) and surrounded by mountains (it’s not on the east side of the Sangre de Cristos, but actually in the midst of them), and it was allegedly hot at the time of the accident. Take a look at the performance charts and draw your own conclusions.

Taos is up there too (about 7000’) but the surrounding area is completely flat and tends downhill toward the southwest (for real fun you could duck into the Rio Grande Gorge to get your airspeed up, hmm…)

As has been noted previously, even the IFR obstacle departure from Angel Fire requires a 420 ft/nm climb gradient. Compare this to Santa Fe, where the SIDs all have climb gradient requirements, but the obstacle departure is downhill.

I had an SR20 at Santa Fe (2000’ lower) which was OK during the winter. However, on my last departure (I replaced it with an SR22 that is much happier up there) it was about 75 degrees, and I found myself in a position for awhile with neither the altitude nor the airspeed to pull in the flaps. Eventually I did get enough airspeed to start climbing (runway 2/20 is 8000’ long) but I knew that the SR20 would be pretty hopeless for “high and hot” performance.

Yes, there are bizjets that operate in and out of Angel Fire, but mostly during the ski (cold) season. Even jets have severe limitations when the temps start to climb. You can bet that those pilots look carefully at their performance charts on every departure (and don’t go when the chart has gray blocks where the numbers would be.)

Thanks for the info. I had incorrectly assumed it wasn’t too much different to Taos. I’ve seen pictures of the airport (Pilot Getaways did an article) and it looked like there was plenty of room to circle in the valley. What still confuses me about the crash is that he apparently hit the mountains. It wasn’t the classic departure crash where the airplane can’t outclimb rising terrain near the airport. With your experience at the airport, can you see a way how one could get caught without an out while climbing?


At any rate, I didn’t notice that it was a '20 that crashed. I can see how that would be a dicey situation on a hot day.

It’s flat enough around the airport so that it seems as though you could put the plane down in a controlled fashion if you committed to the decision early enough.

It’s hard to say what happened, but I could see how someone stuck in ground effect, dodging trees, could delay the inevitable trying to get the plane to climb, rather than making the difficult decision to land off-airport. It’d be difficult to make turns, and things would be going by in a hurry (particularly since the TAS and GS would be somewhat higher than the not-high-enough IAS.) I’d like to believe that I would react differently in such a situation, but few of us are ever tested like that. (I wouldn’t have attempted the takeoff, but that’s a separate issue.)