Preliminary Report: Cessna 421 hits rocky terrain

 - January 16, 2008, 6:33 AM

CESSNA 421C, TAJIQUE, N.M., DEC. 3, 2002–At approximately 8:35 p.m. MST the Cessna 421C crashed in mountainous terrain near Tajique while en route to Albuquerque International Sunport Airport (ABQ), N.M. The sole-occupant, commercial-rated pilot was killed and the aircraft was destroyed.

N3855C was registered to a private individual, operated by Air Transport of El Paso, Texas, and was being used for Part 135 on-demand cargo hauling. The twin turboprop departed the Alamogordo-White Sands Municipal Airport (ALM), N.M., approximately 45 minutes before the accident.

The NTSB said that earlier on the day of the flight the company dispatcher had advised the pilot of possible icing conditions in the Albuquerque area. The dispatcher further advised the pilot to check the weather, and added that if conditions were bad the company would use a Learjet for the trip. According to the dispatcher, the pilot said weather would not be a problem.

At about 4:30 p.m. the dispatcher told the pilot there would be an additional leg, and that it was important to check the weather again. The dispatcher subsequently saw the pilot at the weather station computer and on the telephone. The dispatcher said, “The pilot advised me that the weather should still not be a problem. There might be a little problem getting out of ABQ, but he thought he would be able to get around it.”

At 6:30 p.m. the aircraft departed El Paso International Airport (ELP), making en route stops at Las Cruces International Airport (LRU), N.M., and ALM. It departed ALM at 7:50 p.m. with an estimated time en route to ABQ of 50 minutes. At 9:26 p.m. Albuquerque Center advised the company dispatcher it had lost radar contact with the aircraft. According to initial reports from Albuquerque Tracon, the airplane was in communication with ATC and receiving VFR flight-following services. The last contact between ATC and the airplane was recorded at 9:30 p.m.

The aircraft wreckage was found in rocky terrain at 9,125 feet msl. It was at the end of a 900-foot long, upsloping debris path. The aircraft had skipped over a 20-foot-high embankment, proceeding along the energy path where the airplane’s tail section was found separated and in an upright position 100 feet from the initial impact point. The cockpit and cabin area was found inverted 900 feet from the initial impact point. Both propellers were separated and fragmented blade pieces were scattered throughout the debris field. The outboard section of each wing had separated from the airplane.

The reported weather in the area at the approximate time of the accident was wind from 010 degrees at seven knots, visibility 10 miles, scattered clouds at 600 feet and 800 feet, overcast clouds at 4,200 feet, temperature 3 deg C, dew point -1 deg C, altimeter 30.12 inches and mountains obscured northeast through the southeast.