Trans-Colorado Airlines Flight 2286

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Trans-Colorado Airlines Flight 2286
LC Busre's Fairchild Metro III.jpg
A Fairchild Metro III similar to the aircraft involved
DateJanuary 19, 1988
SummaryPilot error leading to Controlled flight into terrain[1]
SiteBayfield, Colorado
37°13′N 107°41′W / 37.217°N 107.683°W / 37.217; -107.683
Aircraft typeFairchild Metro III
OperatorTrans-Colorado Airlines d/b/a Continental Express
Flight originDenver-Stapleton International Airport
Denver, Colorado
DestinationDurango–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 12,000 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 non-precision approach to Durango's runway 20.[1]:2 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 Captain Stephen Silver, who had a reputation as a pilot who could make up for lost time and attempt to arrive on schedule, chose the approach to runway 20 because it would save time.[1]:27 Silver allowed First Officer Ralph Harvey 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[edit]

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 fiancée of Captain Stephen Silver. The woman claimed to have "done a bag of cocaine" with Silver on the night before the accident. The NTSB attempted to contact and interview the woman, but were unsuccessful.[1]:20 However, tests on his body found traces of cocaine and its metabolites in his blood and urine.[1]:14[7] The NTSB concluded that Silver 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 accident and subsequent investigation are the subject of a season 16 episode which first aired on July 12, 2016[8] of the documentary television series Mayday, titled "Dangerous Approach"[9] and in the episode "Bad Attitude".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x TRANS-COLORADO AIRLINES, INC., FLIGHT 2286, FAIRCHILD METRO III, SA227 AC, N68TC, BAYFIELD, COLORADO, JANUARY 19, 1988 (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. 4 February 1989. NTSB/AAR-89/01. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Cocaine link to commuter airline crash called 'tragic reminder". UPI. 12 March 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. 12 March 1988. Retrieved 2 September 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. 20 January 1988. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Crash Survivors Hike Out in Deep Snow". Los Angeles Times. 21 January 1988. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  6. ^ "COPILOT OF CRASHED AIRCRAFT HAD HISTORY OF ALCOHOL ABUSE". Washington Post. 17 March 1988. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Traces of Cocaine Found in Pilot of Plane That Crashed, Killing Nine". Los Angeles Times. 12 March 1988. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Dangerous Approach". Mayday. Season 16. 2016. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic.