Plane severely damaged
Five family members emerged unscathed from a small-plane accident at the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport on Saturday, December 29.
The family, who had been visiting Crested Butte from Salinas, Kansas, was attempting to take off at approximately 10:05 a.m. heading west. According to the 49-year-old male pilot, the plane lost altitude at approximately 20 feet and hit the ground hard, skidding off the south side of the runway. The cause of the accident is not yet known.
According to the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the scene, the left wing was ripped from the six-passenger Piper Malibu’s fuselage and a trail of aircraft fuel was evident for more than 80 feet.
According to Gunnison County undersheriff Rick Besecker, it was very cold on Saturday, with the temperature hovering at 14 below zero Fahrenheit, with snow flurries and virtually no wind. Besecker says cold temperatures actually make for better weather conditions because the air is thicker, providing for better lift—as opposed to summertime conditions.
However, he says it was a scary moment for the couple, who were travelling with a 12-year-old boy and 14- and 16-year-old girls. “It would be something to write home to mom about,” he said. The undersheriff did not release the name of the family.
The family was travelling from Gunnison to Phoenix, Arizona to attend a wedding.
Police, firecrews, and emergency medical services and the airport’s crash response team came to the accident scene. Besecker says the sheriff’s department has concluded its investigation. Besecker believes the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the crash, as well as the plane’s insurer.
Accidents are not unheard-of at the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, although incidents involving injuries are rare.
In July 2007, a pilot of a single-engine Cessna was slightly injured after his plane crashed due to a “reduction in power.” The four-seat aircraft experienced a hard landing and the right wing struck the runway and skidded for approximately 1,200 feet before coming to a halt.
A year earlier in June 2006, no injuries were reported after a single-engine airplane flipped over onto a larger twin-engine plane at the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport.
In January 2005, a radio miscommunication caused a minor accident between a snowplow and a stationary Continental jet on the taxiway at the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, according to a county official. A passenger in the snowplow sustained a bruised knee from the accident but was immediately released.