Air traffic control audio, radar provide clues to what led to midair collision over Cherry Creek State Park


CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — Wednesday morning’s midair crash happened near Cherry Creek Reservoir. It is a popular waypoint to assemble before lining up to land at the busy Centennial Airport, according to veteran pilot Robert Patlovany. 

“It’s a very high density airport,” Patlovany said. 

Patlovany has been a pilot since the 1970s. He flies mostly Cessnas in and out of Centennial.

“You’re betting your life on you and the controller understanding the same thing,” he explained.

Patlovany reviewed the flight paths of both planes that collided Wednesday and listened to air traffic control audio.

“Both pilots acknowledged that they were cleared for the runway that they were expected to land on,” he said. 

Patlovany said the Cirrus— the plane with the parachute— continued way past the center line of the approved runway 17 Right and made it all the way to the center line of runway 17 Left where the Key Lime— larger plane— was cleared to land.

“Tower, Key Lime 979 declaring an emergency. It looks like the right engine failed,” the Key Lime pilot could be heard saying Wednesday on an air traffic control audio recording following impact.

“Sometimes … you’re thinking hard and you get your left and your right confused,” Patlovany said. “In this particular case, it’s an unforgiving mistake to make.”

No one was hurt in the collision. The Key Lime plane was able to land at the airport and the Cirrus airplane parachute allowed the aircraft to slowly fall to the ground at Cherry Creek State Park.

It is too soon for findings from an investigation to be released. The National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary report will publish in the next 14 days and the investigation is expected to take between a year to a year and a half to be completed.

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