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The accident airplane, a Cessna 172, after it was pulled from Culver Reservoir. (Photo courtesy of the Larimer County Sheriff's Office)

The crash of a single-engine propeller airplane into a Berthoud reservoir last year was likely due to errors made by the two pilots killed in the wreck, federal investigators say.

James Griffith, a 23-year-old from Denver, was learning to recover from aerodynamic spins with 58-year-old Patrick Blankemeier, the chief pilot in charge of flight instruction for  Broomfield-based McAir Aviation, when the Cessna 172 they were traveling in went down.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a final report on the crash, says it was probably caused by the pilots’ failure to “adequately recover from the intentional aerodynamic spin.”

MORE: Read the National Transportation Safety Board’s final report

The NTSB found no evidence “of a mechanical malfunction or failure that would have precluded normal operation during the flight.” According to the final report, the agency also found no evidence of problems with the Cessna’s flight controls.

“It is likely that the pilots did not apply prompt and/or correct flight control inputs to adequately recover from the intentional aerodynamic spin,” the report said.

Both Griffith and Blankemeier were licensed pilots.

The wreck happened on Feb. 27, 2017. Witnesses reported seeing the airplane in a nose-down spin — completing several turns — before disappearing into Culver Reservoir.

YouTube video
Denver7 segment on the 2017 plane crash via YouTube.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....