DENVER (CBS4) – The NTSB and FAA are at work seeking the cause of a mid-air collision north of Centennial Airport as people deal with the shock of a plane coming down in Cherry Creek State Park and another miraculously landing at the airport with major damage.

(credit: CBS)

“When I saw that picture I was amazed that that airplane made it back to the ground. The structural integrity of most airplanes is dependent upon the whole plane being there,” said Tyler Bachelder, associate professor of aviation and aerospace science at Metro State University of Denver.

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The Fairchild Metroliner jet was carrying delivery cargo from Salida to Centennial Airport when “It would appear that one airplane crossed the center line of their runway kind of drifted into the other lane, but it might be too early to speculate,” said Bachelder.

Centennial Airport has parallel runways 17R and 17L. It is considered not to be a risk on days when visibility is clear for planes to land at virtually the same time. But planes also have blind spots.

“We do our best to look around them like we do in cars, but it just might be an unfortunate situation where they were in a blind spot for each other,” said Bachelder.

Frances Phillips looked up and saw two planes as she walked in Cherry Creek State Park. She had just heard a bang and spotted them very close together.

“And it seems to be wobbling and I’m thinking ‘Wait a moment, is he going to be able to pick up faster and continue to maintain his height?’ It looked like it turned and started coming straight towards me. I didn’t want it to land right where I was so I just ran.”

(credit: Hector Valezquez)

The plane continued to turn as it came down and crash landed in a field some distance away. A woman who later identified herself to Frances as a nurse ran to the wreckage and told her the people on board were fine. She went over and found what she thought was a father and son up walking and doing well.

“They were just standing there. It’s like they just walked away from it.”

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There’s no confirmation of the relationship between the two in the plane. Their identities have not been released.

Late Wednesday, Independence Aviation released a statement confirming the aircraft was theirs.

“We are aware of the collision accident involving an aircraft rented from Independence Aviation and are very pleased that no injuries were reported for anyone on either aircraft or on the ground.   The aircraft rented through Independence Aviation was a 2016 Cirrus SR22 which is equipped with an onboard Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS) which the Pilot successfully deployed.”

The systems began to be added to aircraft about two decades ago. A plane that crash lands with the help of a parachute is likely to be a loss. The aircraft recovered from Cherry Creek State Park had heavy damage.

Recordings indicate the Centennial Tower was telling the pilot of the Cirrus to be cautious when turning into the flight path to land. Radar systems show the tower the position and speed of aircraft on its approach. But there was no confirmation from the pilot of the Cirrus. Moments later, a Centennial tower controller can be heard telling the pilot that help is on the way. But there was no reply.

(credit: CBS)

The Metroliner that the pilot managed to land at Centennial Airport after the collision has a large chunk out of the fuselage. Recordings of communications with the tower show the pilot believed the plane was having engine problems and was not aware of the collision. Key Lime Air said the pilot did not know until he was on the ground that the aircraft had been struck. “We cannot express the gratitude we have, company-wide that no one was injured,” the company said in a statement.

No one had any injury of significance.

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Remarkable, thought Frances Phillips. “So if you do take flying lessons make sure your plane has a parachute.”

Alan Gionet