Pilot explains difficulty of flying into windy conditions

Posted at: 03/04/2013 6:51 PM
By: Nikki Ibarra, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The investigations continue Monday into a plane crash in Angel Fire that killed four people Sunday.

Pilot John Verhalen and his girlfriend, Jennifer Woodward, were killed in the crash, so was Verhalen’s sister, Sara, and her 13 year-old daughter, Chloe.

Investigators said wind was a factor in the crash.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 spoke to a local pilot who identified at least two challenges for anyone flying at Angel Fire: High winds and high altitude. KOB asked John Winship if he would have flown there Sunday, he said no.

Winship is an experienced pilot. He’s flown in New Mexico for decades, in and out of Angel Fire at least a dozen times. He said if you’re not familiar with flying in the area, be careful. “To start out, you’re 8,340 feet above sea level. So the airplane thinks it’s at a high altitude and the performance goes down,” said Winship.

Winship doesn’t know what caused the crash but said he wouldn’t have flown in those conditions. “When you add in cross winds, high altitude airport and a warm day, you got a lot of factors against you,” said Winship.

In the minutes after the crash, KOB checked and found winds were howling at 30 miles an hour with gusts up to 50.

“If you got a powerful airplane, you limit those kinds of possibilities. You don’t have the power that you have at sea level so you’re just lacking power which is a dangerous situation,” added Winship.

KOB learned workers at the airport said they talked to Verhalen about not flying in the high winds. Verhalen thought he could handle the conditions.