Trans-Colorado Airlines Flight 2286

Trans-Colorado Airlines Flight 2286
Accident summary
Date January 19, 1988
Summary Pilot error, Controlled flight into terrain[1]
Site Bayfield, Colorado
37°13′N 107°41′W / 37.217°N 107.683°W / 37.217; -107.683
Passengers 15
Crew 2
Fatalities 9
Survivors 8
Aircraft type Fairchild Metro III
Operator Trans-Colorado Airlines
Registration N68TC
Flight origin Denver-Stapleton International Airport
Denver, Colorado
Destination Durango–La Plata County Airport
Durango, Colorado

Trans-Colorado Airlines Flight 2286 (operating as Continental Express Flight 2286) was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Denver, Colorado, to Durango, Colorado, operated for Continental Express by Trans-Colorado Airlines.[1]:v[2][3] On January 19, 1988, Flight 2286 crashed onto terrain near Bayfield, Colorado, while on approach to Durango-La Plata County Airport. Out of the 17 people on board, 9 were killed, including both crew members.[1]:1–2


On the date of the accident, Flight 2286 was operated using a Fairchild Metro III twin-turboprop aircraft (registration number N68TC).[1]:6 Initially manufactured in 1981, this particular aircraft was acquired by Trans-Colorado in 1986.[1]:6 The Metro III had logged a total of approximately 11,895 flight hours at the time of the accident.[1]:79 The aircraft was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder, and the FAA did not require such small regional aircraft to be equipped with such recorders at the time.[1]:9 After the accident, the FAA mandated the installation of flight recorders in all aircraft operating scheduled flights.[1]:26


Flight 2286 departed Denver's Stapleton International Airport at 18:20 Mountain Standard Time as a regularly scheduled flight to Durango–La Plata County Airport. A total of 15 passengers and two pilots were on board.[1]:1

At 18:53, Flight 2286 reported reaching its cruising altitude of 23,000 feet. Air traffic control advised Flight 2286 of reduced visibility into Durango, with a ceiling of only 800 feet and light snow and fog in the area.[1]:1 At 19:00, controllers asked Flight 2286 whether they wanted to make an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to Durango's runway 2, or a visual approach to Durango's runway 20. From Flight 2286's location, making the ILS landing would have required backtracking to make the approach to runway 2, adding 10 minutes to the flight versus a more direct approach into runway 20.[1]:27 The captain, who had a reputation as a pilot who could make up for lost time and attempt to arrive on schedule, chose the visual approach to runway 20 because it would save time.[1]:27 The captain allowed the first officer to fly the approach into Durango.[1]:27

At 19:03, Flight 2286 was cleared to begin descending from 23,000 feet. In order to make a direct approach into Durango, the first officer flew in at a rapid descent of 3,000 feet per minute, which was more than three times the rate intended for the approach.[1]:27 At 19:14, Flight 2286 received clearance to approach Durango's runway 20, and reported reaching 14,000 feet.[1]:2 Flight 2286 continued to descend until it struck the ground, and then pitched up.[1]:2 The aircraft rolled several times before striking the ground again. Flight 2286 eventually slid to a stop approximately five miles from the airport.[1]:2

One crash survivor hiked through snow for over a mile in an effort to summon help.[4][5] Both pilots plus seven passengers were killed in the crash.

Investigation and probable cause

The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators learned that first officer Ralph Harvey had a history of alcohol abuse.[6] However, the first officer had completed a physical exam the day before the crash, and was found at that time to be free of alcohol or illegal drugs.[1]:6 In addition, tests on the first officer's body were negative for alcohol or drugs.[1]:14

During the investigation, the NTSB was informed by another pilot that after the crash, he encountered a woman that claimed to be the fiancee of Flight 2286 captain Stephen Silver. The woman claimed to have "done a bag of cocaine" with the captain on the day before the accident. The NTSB attempted to contact and interview the woman, but were unsuccessful.[1]:20 However, tests on the captain's body found traces of cocaine and its metabolites in his blood and urine.[1]:14[7] The NTSB concluded that the captain had likely used cocaine 12 to 18 hours before the accident, and that his piloting skills were likely degraded as a result of his drug use.[1]:28–29

On February 4, 1989, the NTSB issued its final report on Flight 2286, in which it stated its finding of the probable cause of the crash:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the first officer’s flying and the captain’s ineffective monitoring of an unstabilized approach which resulted in a descent below the published descent profile. Contributing to the accident was the degradation of the captain’s performance resulting from his use of cocaine before the accident.[1]:34

The Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic TV series Mayday (also called Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency) featured the story of the disaster in a 16th-season episode titled Dangerous Approach.[8]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 TRANS-COLORADO AIRLINES, INC., FLIGHT 2286, FAIRCHILD METRO III, SA227 AC, N68TC, BAYFIELD, COLORADO, JANUARY 19, 1988 (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. February 4, 1989. NTSB/AAR-89/01. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  2. "Cocaine link to commuter airline crash called 'tragic reminder". UPI. March 12, 1988. The two-engine turbo prop, owned by Trans Colorado Airlines and operating as Continental Express Flight 2286, crashed a few miles from Durango, Colo., as it neared the airport.
  3. "COCAINE DETECTED IN BODY OF PILOT IN COMMUTER CRASH". Washington Post. March 12, 1988. Retrieved September 2, 2016. Laboratory tests found cocaine in the urine of pilot Steven S. Silver, who died at the controls of Continental Express Flight 2286, a twin-engine turbo prop that crashed in snowy mountains a few miles from Durango, Colo., as it approached the LaPlata County Airport, according to a toxicology report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
  4. "Plane Crash Kills Eight in Colo.; Survivors Hike Out". Los Angeles Times. January 20, 1988. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  5. "Crash Survivors Hike Out in Deep Snow". Los Angeles Times. January 21, 1988. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  6. "COPILOT OF CRASHED AIRCRAFT HAD HISTORY OF ALCOHOL ABUSE". Washington Post. March 17, 1988. Retrieved August 29, 2016.
  7. "Traces of Cocaine Found in Pilot of Plane That Crashed, Killing Nine". Los Angeles Times. March 12, 1988. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  8. "Dangerous Approach". Mayday. Season 16. 2016. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic.
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