Telluride, Colorado

On October 5, 2020, a tragic airplane crash claimed the lives of Costas Sivyllis and Lindsey Vogelaar near Telluride, Colorado. Costas Sivyllis, a 30-year-old pilot for United Airlines and aviation enthusiast, and his wife Lindsey Vogelaar, a 33-year-old flight attendant, were on a cross-country trip in their private Beechcraft Bonanza when the accident occurred. The couple had just celebrated their recent wedding and were enjoying their honeymoon, documenting their journey on social media.

Video by Pilot Debrief

The crash site was located in the Ingram Basin area, a remote and rugged part of the San Juan Mountains, which made the recovery efforts particularly challenging. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft departed from Telluride Regional Airport and was en route to Florida. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed under what, at the time, were unknown circumstances.

Investigators faced difficulties in determining the precise cause of the crash due to the location and extent of the wreckage. However, it was noted that weather conditions at the time were clear, which ruled out adverse weather as a contributing factor.

Pilot Debrief, whose video is featured above, has a summary of the official investigation into the crash and determined that the following key points were the reasons for the crash:

The crash occurred at Telluride, Colorado, the highest elevation airport in the U.S., at over 9,000 feet above sea level. High altitude and mountainous terrain presented significant challenges. Costa, an excellent pilot, underestimated the impact of density altitude, which made the aircraft feel like it was at 10,858 feet, reducing its performance. On their second flight that day, aiming for a scenic photo shoot, Costa misjudged the canyon terrain. The thin air reduced engine power, increased ground speed, and impaired the aircraft’s climb capability.

Costa offset to the left, possibly due to false confidence from an earlier flight. He attempted a turn, lowering the flaps, but lacked sufficient airspeed, resulting in a stall. This tragedy highlights the critical importance of understanding density altitude and always leaving room for safe maneuvers in challenging conditions.

The loss of Costas and Lindsey was deeply felt by their family, friends, and colleagues. The aviation community mourned the passing of a passionate pilot and a dedicated flight attendant who had shared their love for flying and adventure. Their tragic accident serves as a poignant reminder of the inherent risks associated with aviation in mountainous terrain and the importance of thorough investigation to prevent future occurrences.

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