A district court with jurisdiction in Larimer County, Colorado, has filed misdemeanor charges against a then-34-year-old flight instructor who crashed a Cessna 172 on Sept. 11, 2022, after allegedly buzzing two boats on the Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, Colorado. The pilot, Ahmed El-Kaddah, issued a statement citing mechanical problems during a non-instructional sightseeing flight, but after an examination of the Cessna and recorded flight data, investigators have rejected his assertions.
El-Kaddah reportedly left the country shortly after the accident and a warrant for his arrest is now in effect, with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office asking the public for help in locating him. The pilot’s brother, Hamad El-Kaddah, 36, also a certificated pilot, was on board the flight, which departed from Boulder Municipal Airport.
After viewing “dozens” of photographs of the incident supplied by witnesses (including boaters), the sheriff’s office first contacted the FBI to initiate federal charges, but the matter was ultimately referred to the district court, leading to charges on five counts of menacing and six counts of reckless endangerment. According to the sheriff’s office, legislation enacted in 2021 “narrowed the definition of felony menacing; as a result, threatening immediate serious injury with a vehicle or aircraft is classified as a misdemeanor under current law.”
In Ahmed El-Kaddah’s statement, he identified himself as an ATP-rated pilot with a type rating in the Embraer 145 regional jet. In the statement, he said he was currently employed by the flight school that operated the Cessna and claimed 3,500 hours of experience, including 2,300 hours of flight instruction given. He said his brother is also ATP-rated with 7,000 hours logged and is a pilot for an “overseas airline.” He said the accident flight was his third sightseeing sortie of the day over the reservoir.
He reportedly first claimed there was a loss of engine power, then cited a stuck elevator issue. An examination of the aircraft and review of flight data by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board convinced investigators that El-Kaddah’s claims were unsubstantiated, and the cause of the accident “was not due to mechanical malfunctions or anomalies.”
Sheriff John Feyen said, “The fact that someone would show such reckless disregard for the lives of others is concerning, but it’s even more disturbing on a date that holds so much pain and significance for our country. The lack of legal accountability is frustrating to say the least.”