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Cessna L-19E Crash Video

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Cessna L-19E Crash Video

Old 08-28-2009, 07:41 AM
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Default Cessna L-19E Crash Video

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Document #1 -- The tragic tale of the missing Cessna L-19E

Cessna serial number 24527 - FAA Reg. Number N4584A - January, 2009 Intended Flight Route: Granby, Colorado to (Jeffco County)Denver, Colorado. Lost: August 10th, 1984 More.. at approx. 13:00hours Found: August 23rd, 1987, near Tabernash, Colorado

It’s a very tragic tale – unwittingly caught on film by the gentleman who died in the crash along with a friend riding in the back seat. It was first shown to me (along with many others) at an FIRC (Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic) over 20 years ago.

The family of the deceased had put a 20-year moratorium (via the FAA) on the release of the film to the general public with the only stipulation that it (at the FAA’s request to the family of the deceased) be shown ONLY to Flight Instructors at FIRC’s and workshops such as the ones I attend every two years (for the purpose of renewing my flight instructor’s license; along with discussing the lessons learned herein with private & commercial pilot applicants so that the knowledge gleaned from the tape could be used and disseminated to help prevent this kind of thing from happening to someone else). Last year the moratorium was up and not renewed – so it effectively became “public domain”.

Here’s what happened: The gentleman flying this aircraft (a restored single-engine Cessna L-19E 0Bird Dog” - commonly used by the US Army (beginning in 1962, it was also known as the “O-1” during the Vietnam War – the last one retiring from active service in 1974) & the USAF in Korea & Vietnam for general spotting (F.A.C.) & liaison duties as well as a basic training airplane in the US) had been offered a contract by the Colorado Dept. of Forestry to videotape a particularly nasty type of beetle infestation that had been ravaging hundreds of acres of Colorado forest in and around some of the higher-elevation foothills surrounding some of the Rockies. One thing that was unique about this particular flight was that the pilot had mounted a VHS video camcorder atop the instrument panel for the purpose of visually recording any beetle infestation that was observed along the flight route. The pilot started the camera shortly after takeoff and it ran until the aircraft crashed down through the trees – approx. 6-1/2 minutes later.

The problem, as you’ll see in this (approx.) 6-1/2 minute video, was that he was flying into what can be clearly seen as gradually ever-ascending terrain altitude. However, because of the density altitude conditions which existed at the time of the accident (remember, this was in August), he was already at or above the airplane’s effective “service ceiling” – the point at which a plane cannot maintain at least a minimum of a 100 foot-per-minute rate of climb – in this case, he was flying a normally-aspirated (meaning no turbocharger or supercharger on the engine) single-engine plane at or above it’s normal level of (density) altitude for which it was capable of maintaining – again, considering the abrupt bank angle attempted at the end of the flight which culminated in the crash itself.

As he flew along – with his friend in the back seat (this being a “tandem-seat” aircraft - fore-and-aft seating – like a Piper Super Cub), you can see the terrain continually slowly increase in altitude, until right at the very end of the tape, when he makes his second – and fatal – error. He makes a moderately steep turn to the right (in excess of 45 to 50 degrees angle of bank) in an attempt to turn around quickly – the plane loses considerable lift and initially stalls twice; then on the 3rd stall (with the stall warning horn blaring in the background), enters the traditional “stall/spin” syndrome and flips upside down as the left (up-wing) wing stalls completely and the plane, flipping over on it’s back, plunges straight down through the trees – but not before capturing the pilot’s last mournful cry to his friend in the back seat: “Damn, hang on Ronnie!!”; the plane smashes downwards through the thick tree branches (you can hear the heavy “thuds” as the plane’s wings smash into these while heading for the ground); it crashes & burns – killing both the pilot and bac k-seat passenger.

There is a small fire which consumes some of the wreckage but no forest fire is started and since the plane plunged straight down through the trees to the ground, there was no visible tree damage for any would-be rescuers to use to spot the wreckage or crash location. One additional important factor that added to the delay of the discovery of the wreckage was the fact that the fuselage (the main body) of the plane came to rest upside down – on top of the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) antenna, effectively silencing its emergency signal to satellites and other would-be rescue aircraft.

Note: The above photo text is wrong in that it was just over three (3) years from the crash date of Aug. 10th, 1984 until its initial discovery on Aug. 23rd, 1987.

The wreckage laid there for approximately 3 years ( Aug. 10th, 1984 to Aug. 23rd, 1987) until it was found by a pair of backpackers hiking through that particular location. The wreckage was removed and after the NTSB & the FAA released their findings (based on both crash evidence as well as lack of prior logged maintenance problems with the plane); the wreckage was then released to the family of the deceased pilot as the plane had belonged to him. The family kept what they wanted and gave the rest to a scrap yard for final disposition.

Dale Wood, a Colorado deputy sheriff investigating the wreckage and the crash scene, discovered the shattered video recorder within the wreckage and “rebuilt” the tape (which was in pieces and had been exposed to the elements for 3 years – some of it hanging from tree branches during that 3 year period of time!!) and turned it over to the NTSB for final review. The end result was what you see here – the pilot had recorded, on video tape, his “…continued flight into rising terrain – combined with a high density altitude condition existing at that time – along with an abrupt maneuver (approx. 45 - 50+ degrees angle of bank) resulting in a fatal “stall/spin” accident…” – he had unwittingly recorded his own death.

The fire had warped and partially melted the VHS recorder into a misshapen hunk of plastic that no one at the NTSB or FAA could recognize, so they initially passed on a closer examination – thinking it was apparently some sort of item that could not be attributed to playing any conceivable role in the accident.

This is that tape – converted to DVD/WMV file format. The intermittent gaps in the “engine rumbling noises” and the electronic “glitches” in the video and audio portions of the tape were caused by tree and ground impact damage along with heat from the fire as well as exposure to the elements for three years – I saw this tape approx. 20 years ago and its exactly as I saw it back then. - Finis -

The Cessna L-19E “Bird Dog” – 2-seat (“tandem” – fore & aft seating) spotter (F.A.C.) and general-duty liaison aircraft used extensively in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars as well as in the US as a US Army and USAF basic training aircraft. Engine: Continental O-470-11, 6-cylinder, 213 hp.

Introduced in the very early 1950’s (around the start of the Korean War), this aircraft is the “forerunner” of what eventually became the Cessna 170 series of civilian light planes. There are approximately 120 Cessna L-19’s (also known as “O-1’s”) still registered & flying in the US today.

Here is the video:
LiveLeak.com - Fatal plane crash video released 25 years after it happened
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:50 AM
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I saw that video back in the early 90's. I also got my private license in an L-19.

If, should have, would've.....There were so many ways he could have pulled that turn off without stalling but flying into a bowl at high altitude that close to the ground. It is horrifying to watch this unfold every time I see it.
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Old 08-28-2009, 09:26 AM
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After he barely topped that one ridge and then came in over the lake, I kept wanting to say "turn around, turn around."
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Old 08-28-2009, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by MrWalk View Post
After he barely topped that one ridge and then came in over the lake, I kept wanting to say "turn around, turn around."
I know, it's so sad. I was saying the same thing.
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Old 08-28-2009, 05:36 PM
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It was described as the left upwing wing stalling first but it seems more like it was his right downwind wing that stalled. When I was teaching unusual attitudes we usually called this an "over the top" stall where he entered possibly a right skidding turn where his right inside wing was moving slower than the right wing in the turn when it stalled and dropped the right wing and the left which was still producing lift flipped it over on its back.

It takes hundreds of feet to fix that. I of course could be wrong since I have been out of the unusual attitudes game for a while and I wasnt there but a left wing stall would likely have not rolled the airplane to the right.

Regardless...it is hard to see from the video but as others have mentioned it just seems like so much could have been done to avoid it in the first place. A sad video for the family.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:30 PM
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I fly a L-19 alot nowadays, We use them for banners. I use about 15 degrees (first notch) of flaps to help get better climb. We also have the bigger 0470 in there. But on a hot day with a big billboard at sea level they dont like to climb. I can imagine how it would fly up high. I wonder if they had any flaps out? Also form the video it looks like he flipped over after hitting the first treetop.
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Old 08-30-2009, 03:24 PM
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Wow that is stunning it really makes you twice about density alt.
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Old 08-30-2009, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Airhoss View Post
I saw that video back in the early 90's. I also got my private license in an L-19.

If, should have, would've.....There were so many ways he could have pulled that turn off without stalling but flying into a bowl at high altitude that close to the ground. It is horrifying to watch this unfold every time I see it.

Care to comment anymore on what he could have done to pull that turn off? Other than obviously not using such a steep bank..

Noob pilot here
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Old 08-30-2009, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by BaronPete View Post
Care to comment anymore on what he could have done to pull that turn off? Other than obviously not using such a steep bank..

Noob pilot here
As Miyagi said in Karate Kid 2; "Best way to avoid punch, no be there."
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