The pilot of an unmaintained airplane that crashed high in the Colorado mountains and went undiscovered for months last year did not adequately plan out his flight or anticipate the weather conditions, which likely brought his plane down, federal air crash investigators say.
Quentin Aschoff, a 67-year-old from Bend, Oregon, died in the wreck of his single-engine Cessna 210 on April 4, 2018, near Alma. He was the only person aboard and was heading from Erie Municipal Airport to Richmond Municipal Airport in Utah.
The National Transportation Safety Board, in a recently released final report on the crash, said that at the time of the fatal flight Aschoff lacked a valid medical or pilot certificate and had not flown for as long as two years. It called his decision to fly over the mountains “poor” and noted that his extensive health problems could have also contributed to this crash.
The 1960 Cessna hadn’t flown in as many as four years. The NTSB report says someone who thought about purchasing the aircraft declined to do so because it was in such a state of disrepair that they thought it would be best used for salvage.
Additionally, the night before the fatal flight, Aschoff inadvertently retracted the landing gear while the plane was on the ground. Aschoff told a tow truck driver he called to help get the plane back on its wheels that he had “pulled the wrong lever,” the NTSB report says.
The Federal Aviation Administration also issued an emergency order of suspension for Aschoff’s pilot’s license in July 2014 for a number of violations, including operating as pilot-in-command without a valid medical certificate, deviation from air traffic control clearances and airspace violations.
“Given the pilot’s history of failure to follow regulations, his decisions on the day of the accident are consistent with a demonstrated disregard for rules,” the NTSB said in its final report on the crash “Whether the airplane’s lack of maintenance contributed to its performance in mountainous terrain could not be determined.”
The NTSB analyzed weather conditions on the day of the crash and found that they were capable of producing moderate to severe turbulence. The agency thinks Aschoff encountered turbulence and lost control of his plane.
However, the aircraft was so damaged by the crash and in such a remote place that investigators couldn’t test it for operability.
“The examination of the airframe, engine and related systems was limited due to terrain and elevation of the accident site,” the NTSB said. “Impact damage precluded functional testing of the engine and related components.”
Aschoff’s aircraft was missing for three months before it was found by a pair of men four-wheeling in the area along Mosquito Pass between Alma and Leadville.
Search crews looked for the plane for two weeks, scouring Colorado’s mountains by air. It was initially unclear where Aschoff’s plane went down, however, since he didn’t file a flight plan.