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Two planes collide midair near Cherry Creek Reservoir on approach path for Centennial Airport

No injuries or fatalities were reported

Firefighters inspect the crash site of a Cirrus SR-22, which collided with another aircraft as both prepared to land at Centennial Airport on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Provided by South Metro Fire Rescue)
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Two small airplanes collided over Cherry Creek State Park on Wednesday morning as they prepared to land at Centennial Airport, one of the nation’s busiest general aviation airports.

No one was killed or injured.

One aircraft with two people aboard crash landed roughly 4 miles north of Centennial airport in Cherry Creek State Park while the other, which had just one occupant, landed safely at the airport. 

Air traffic control recordings and flight tracking websites show the planes collided as they both turned toward Centennial Airport’s parallel runways. 

The plane that landed safely was a Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner operated by Key Lime Air. FlightAware.com records show the Metroliner, a twin-engine propeller plane, was headed to Centennial Airport from Salida.

A photo of the Metroliner at Centennial Airport showed a large section of the aircraft’s rear fuselage missing. Key Lime Air uses the Metroliner to ferry freight across Colorado.

The plane that crashed was a Cirrus SR-22, which had taken off from Centennial Airport about an hour earlier and was heading back to the airport after flying up to the Fort Collins area, according to FlightAware records.

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The Cirrus deployed a parachute it is equipped with that can allow the aircraft to float to the ground during emergencies. 

Air traffic control communications archived on liveatc.net provide insight into what happened. 

The Metroliner was cleared to land on Runway 17 left. At roughly the same time, the Cirrus was cleared to land on a parallel runway, Runway 17 right, on a different air traffic control frequency.

The Cirrus’ pilots were warned not to veer too far to the east and stay toward the west end of Cherry Creek Reservoir as they turned their plane south to line up to land. Air traffic control warned the Cirrus that the Metroliner was nearby. 

Moments later, the planes collided.

“Looks like the right engine failed so I’m going to continue my landing,” the Metroliner’s pilot said, apparently not realizing the collision had happened.

Another pilot called air traffic controllers to say they saw the Cirrus with its parachute deployed floating down to the ground, indicating there had been a collision. 

South Metro Fire Rescue and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office responded to the collision.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash.

“Initial report indicates collision happened as airplanes were landing,” the NTSB tweeted. “The NTSB will travel to the scene.”

Staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.


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