Low Passes Over Boats Preceded Crash


The NTSB says a pilot and instructor flew low passes over two boats on a lake near Fort Collins, Colorado, before their Cessna crashed last September. In its final report on the mishap, which wrecked the 172 and resulted in minor injuries to the occupants, the NTSB cited the probable cause as “the pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from rising terrain while intentionally maneuvering the airplane at low altitudes.” The report says the instructor also gave conflicting accounts of the events to investigators.

The investigators also talked to witnesses who took photos of the aircraft buzzing two boats on a lake near Fort Collins. “After making a very low pass over the boat, the airplane made a steep climb, followed by a steep right turn, and then flew at a low altitude over the second boat,” the report says. “After passing the second boat, the airplane appeared to depart toward a valley.” The instructor told investigators there were issues with the aircraft controls before the crash, but no technical faults were discovered in their examination of the plane.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”
    Captain A. G. Lamplugh, a British pilot from the early days of aviation.

  2. Violation of (c) below:

    § 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.
    Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

    (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

    (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

    (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

    • The only pertinent part of that is:

      “…except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

      How close was the plane to the boats? 500 feet? Maybe.

    • I was a 23 year skydiver and in the ’90’s, if memory serves, a Cessna 182 jump plane at Dublin, Virginia buzzed the DZ and had a wheel hit a parked van and flipped it with one of the jumpers inside. The jumper in the van survived as did the pilot and, of course, the plane was destroyed. Later FAA came and shut down the drop zone. Read about this in the US Parachute Association (USPA) magazine “Parachutist.”

  3. My son was up at Horsetooth Reservoir with his dog and watched this happen from a point around the lake. He could not believe that anyone would do such a stupid thing. I find it shocking that there was an (ex)instructor aboard!

  4. During an aircraft accident course had a wise old instructor say “If the pilot survives, you’ll never find out what REALLY happened”. I guess we can multiply that times two since there was a flight instructor there too.

  5. With a lifetime of flying behind me now, I’m going to speculate that every one of us on here did some really stupid s##t in our early years…or maybe still doing so occasionally, hope not. Most got away with it. They didn’t. Getting away doesn’t make it right….but we did it.