Wreckage of cargo plane piloted by Perry Grant that crashed into a mountainside near Telluride, Colo., in June 2005.

Witnesses saw the pilot chipping ice from the plane, and the Cessna 208B was soon en route. "I tell you what," Blevins said at 1:50 a.m., just before the crash. "I got my hands full right now."

Shane Storz, director of operations for Multi-Aero Inc., a cargo company that lost a pilot in an Iowa crash in 2001, said the culture of the industry impacts safety.

"A lot of these companies, they don't have good training programs. They take an individual out of flight instruction and put him in a [cargo] seat, and that's where you get a lot of accidents," Storz said. "These guys are so hungry to go to the airlines, they will do anything. You've got pilots flying for nothing."

Todd DeSimone, general manager of an Illinois company, Planemasters Ltd., that was involved in a fatal crash in December 2002, said the freight industry should be every bit as safety-conscious as others.

"I know some of these operators aren't training at the highest standards, because it's freight," DeSimone said. "I don't care if it's boxes or people, it's got to be the same when it comes to the training."

Perry Grant's last flight reveals the consequence of the industry's safety breakdowns.

Grant was born into an aviation family and built model airplanes as a child, so it was little surprise that he held both commercial pilot and fight instructor certificates.

He found work in cargo.

"According to family members, friends and colleagues, the pilot was 'tired' and displayed symptoms of burnout," NTSB records say. "One colleague reported that during an extended flight, the pilot had fallen asleep while acting as pilot in command. Several other passengers, whom had flown with the pilot, reported that he had fallen asleep during their flights."

On that June morning in 2005, NTSB records say, "the pilot made several requests for someone to accompany him during his flight because he was tired."

Thirty minutes after taking off alone, Grant was dead.

FAA enforcement records reveal American Aviation as a frequent safety scofflaw. Clear warning signs existed years before Grant's crash.

"This operator needs to be watched closely," a 2001 inspection report noted.

| Reporting by Ronnie Greene | Photography by Candace Barbot | Audio Editing by Rhonda Victor Sibilia | Online Production by Stephanie Rosenblatt | (c) Miami Herald July 9, 2006 |