Three people walked away unscathed on May 12 after a Cirrus SR22 and a Swearingen Metroliner collided in midair about three miles north of the threshold of Runway 17L at Denver Centennial Airport (KAPA) located a few miles southeast of the city of Denver, Colorado. The AvHerald reported the Metroliner—Key Lime Air 970—was inbound to KAPA on a visual approach to Runway 17L while the Cirrus, approaching from the northwest was given Runway 17R. There is only about 700 feet separating the two runways. Centennial weather at the time of the accident recorded just a few scattered clouds and good visibility.
According to conversations on the tower frequency recorded via LiveATC.net, the Cirrus, N416DJ, was cleared to land Runway 17R and the pilot was given the Metroliner as traffic for the left runway. An initial review of the recording seems to indicate the tower was operating on two different frequencies, one controller working traffic on the left runway on one frequency and another with a possibly different controller working traffic for the right runway. If that was the case, the two pilots would have been unable to hear each other’s radio transmissions.
Continuing inbound, the Cirrus pilot on a right base to the right runway reported the lime green Metroliner in sight. Tracking from FlightRadar 24 showed the Metroliner, then on a straight-in approach to the left at 118 knots. The SR22 on the base was indicating 170 knots.
As the Cirrus approached the airport for the right runway, the tower audio indicated the controller apparently noticed an unsafe situation developing as he reminded the Cirrus pilot not to stray toward 17L. Immediately after that warning, the controller asked the Cirrus pilot if he needed assistance while another pilot on the frequency reported the Cirrus pilot had already pulled his parachute. The Metroliner pilot reported the right engine had failed but they managed to retain control of the severely damaged aircraft to a safe landing on 17L. News photos show that about 30 percent of the Metroliner’s cabin was torn away in the collision with the SR22. Lucky for all, the Key Lime Air is an all-cargo operation—apparently with no passengers in the cabin.