Pilot Charged After Allegedly Buzzing Boats, Then Crashing


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.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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    • Exactly. His excuses are so lame. As if the authorities don’t know how to fly planes or have experience in accident investigations. Wonder what the consequences will be of the pilot who flies for an ‘overseas airline’ will be.

  1. I do hope that the US aviation authorities will – officially – alert their colleagues internationally in an effort to ensure this individual is *never* responsible for the lives of any other passengers in *any* sort of aircraft – commercial at least. It seems the very least they can do to prevent a future ‘incident’ with this loon at the controls.

  2. Mark, you didn’t tell us why both rated pilots on this flight weren’t charged by Colorado. How did they figure out which one of these two perps to charge? In bank robberies all of the perps get the same wrap. Seems to me that both were complicit here.

    The feds should also step forward with charges for the false reports.

    Book ‘em Dano.

    God bless.

  3. Dude! Not all Middle Easteners are terrorists! I thought AvWeb was monitoring the threads and removing idiotic posts!

    This case is a case of two idiots with more than one hazardous attitude at play. They could’ve been from any country.

      • Not sure your stats are valid and you’re conflating it anyways and making an assumption of the larger population. In essence your negatively stereotyping a huge swath of the population. Please continue your small minded view of the world. The rest of us will disregard and move on.

    • Malcolm never mentioned that these two dangerous and sorry sacks of poo were, in fact, Middle Easterners, crashing airplanes, on September 11th. Pure coincidence.

    • There is no way to know their motivation but it is in the realm of possibility it was a celebratory flight.

      Committing the act on 9/11 may not have been coincidental timing and the possibility should be entertained.

  4. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Whether buzzing multiple boats while displaying your 12″ registration numbers to all or running for Congress on a totally fabricated resume, surely they knew the likely outcome, so “what were they thinking?” Apparently, there are no limits on applications for these wry old sayings.

  5. His lack of accountability might be remedied under the requirement that an ATP be “of good moral character” (paraphrasing). Fleeing the country so he cannot be arrested should invalidate his FAA ATP, and thus any other nation’s certificate issued on the basis of his FAA ATP.