Civil Air Patrol Pilot Dies while Searching for Missing Hiker

Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182R, N9545H

By Anonymous | AuxBeacon News Contributor

[Editor’s Note: We received an anonymous tip regarding this crash. Thank you for your contribution. This CAP plane crash in Colorado was attributed to pilot error.]

In early-August, 1988, Chicago Sportswriter Keith Reinhardt, a novice and somewhat fearful hiker, attempted to climb the steep and heavily wooded slope of Pendleton Mountain, north of Silver Plume Colorado.

He left in the late afternoon for a climb that would take an experienced hiker several hours. He had no map, compass or flashlight, nor extra clothing. He was wearing blue jeans, a cotton shirt, and tennis shoes. He took only a can of soda. Reinhardt failed to return that evening. Starting the next afternoon, rescuers searched for seven days.

Due to the rugged terrain, and sizeable search area, other Mountain Rescue Association volunteers from throughout the western United States were recruited. In addition, six helicopters, and two fixed-wing aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol, participated On August 29, 1988, the fifth day of the search, a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182R [N9545H] fixed wing aircraft participated in the search, with pilot Terry Leadens and spotter Don Drobny.

Due to a large number of search and rescue helicopters operating that day, the SAR Incident Command requested the fixed-wing pilot to maintain an altitude above 13,000 feet MSL. For unknown reasons, the pilot descended well below the 13,000-foot level during his flight. It is estimated that he was flying at 11,000 feet when…

A passenger reported that the pilot said ‘I don’t like the feel of this.’ A paramedic said the passenger also related that they had ‘hit a downdraft.’ A helicopter pilot flying in the area said that the winds were not conducive for fixed wing flights, especially in the trenches.

The broken trees indicated a descent angle of 45 degrees. The distance from the first tree strike to the main wreckage was 62 feet. The aircraft came to a rest on its nose. The terrain elevation was about 10,600 feet.

When the Cessna failed to make its hourly radio check-in, a search began. Thanks to the skill of KCNC-TV helicopter pilot Mike Silva, the crash site was located within minutes.

Despite Silva’s report that “the crash site looks catastrophic,” rescuers were immediately flown to the site by Army Chinook helicopter, where they rescued the passenger, who survived the crash despite serious injuries.

Probable Cause
• Weather evaluation – Inadequate – pilot in command
• Airspeed – Inadequate – pilot in command
• Altitude – Inadequate – pilot in command MSL

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