On March 23, 2019, a Cessna R172E was destroyed when it hit a power line, then a dairy farm 1.5 miles northwest of Runway 15 at Northern Colorado Regional Airport (KFNL), in Loveland, Colorado. The pilot was seriously injured and his two passengers sustained minor injuries.
The airplane was registered to the U.S. Air Force and operated by the Peterson Air Force Base (AFB) Aero Club.
The pilot, a 10-year U.S. Army UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot, said he was accumulating fixed-wing civilian flight time and had brought along two passengers.
According to the pilot, he and his passengers intended to fly from KCOS to KFNL and return. He said he was weather briefed for the flight and received multiple weather briefings before takeoff. As they approached KFNL from the southwest, he made a call on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) and reported he was entering a right traffic pattern for Runway 15.
Another pilot heard the report and advised him of “significant down drafts” on the approach to Runway 15. The pilot acknowledged the transmission and continued his approach.
When he turned onto the base leg, he encountered the “severe down-draft/microburst” the other pilot had mentioned. He applied full power in an attempt to climb out, but the airplane hit a power-line and tree, and then terrain.
At the time of the accident, the automated weather observation station at KFNL reported wind 170° at 11 kts, visibility of 10 miles, light rain, few clouds at 1,600 feet, ceilings 3,800 feet broken, 4,800 feet overcast, temperature 43°F, dew point 36°F, and altimeter setting 29.93 inches of Mercury.
A NTSB meteorologist’s review of the weather showed that a complex wind pattern existed over the area during the period with a wind shift occurring immediately after the time of the accident.
No support for convective microburst activity was noted over the area, however a large area of light intensity precipitation with some potential for some outflow was noted, which could have resulted in the different winds occurring over the accident site during the period.
In addition, the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model sounding and satellite imagery and pilot reports noted support for mountain wave activity over the area, which supported downslope winds and downdraft activity in the area at the time of the accident. The National Weather Service had AIRMET advisories for turbulence and IFR and mountain obscuration conditions over the area, but no advisory for low-level wind shear.
Probable Cause: An inflight loss of control on landing approach due to encountering a down-draft, and the pilot’s failure to take timely action to abandon the approach and perform a go-around.
This March 2019 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.