No cause determined yet

 - September 26, 2007, 6:38 AM

The NTSB has released initial factual information about the Flight Options Beechjet 400A that suffered a dual engine flameout on Nov. 28, 2005. The investigation is ongoing and the Safety Board has not yet determined a probable cause of the accident.

On a positioning flight from Indianapolis to Marcos Island, Fla., cruising at FL380, the fractional jet, N691TA, lost both engines when the crew reduced power after being cleared to descend to FL330. After starting the descent, the two ATP-rated pilots, the only occupants of the airplane, heard a loud pop from the right engine, then one from the left. The engine indicators “quickly rolled back.” They put on their oxygen masks (the captain reported later that his kept sliding up) and declared an emergency.

The pilot advised ATC that he believed ice had blocked the fuel lines and starved the engines. Weather was VMC, with wind calm and no turbulence. The pilots’ accident report noted light drizzle, an 8,000-foot overcast, a temperature of 21 degrees C and dew point of 19 degrees C. During the descent, the crew attempted unsuccessfully to start one of the engines.

ATC vectored the crew to an emergency landing at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), where the weather was better and the runways longer than at Gainesville, Fla., the closest airport. The JAX local controller provided mileage calls for the last 15 miles to JAX, advice that ATC said the pilot appreciated since, with both engines out, the aircraft had lost most instrumentation. With no FMS, he was required to mentally compute a 7:1 glideslope, “not something you do every day.”

On the straight-in instrument approach to the wet Runway 7, the captain made comments about “getting it back” and “just got an engine back” less than a minute before touchdown. The crew landed and rolled off the runway onto a taxiway, when the right main tire blew. (The tower reported that both tires failed.) Damage to the airplane was minor, and neither pilot was injured.

Engine Data
The total time on the airframe was 4,010 hours. The Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5 engines were rated at 2,965 pounds thrust. Engine No. 1 was manufactured Sept. 26, 2003, and had a total time of 667 hours (the report also listed 667 since overhaul).

Engine No. 2 was manufactured on Jan. 1, 2001, and had a total time of 4,010 hours, 1,714 since overhaul. Both engines had flown 31 hours since the last inspection on Nov. 18, 2005, ten days before the accident.

The cockpit voice recorder was sent to the NTSB’s Audio Laboratory for readout. A sound spectrum group met on April 19, 2006, to check for sound signatures related to the aircraft’s engines, as the aircraft was not equipped with a flight data recorder. According to the group’s report, it was “not possible to determine from the acoustic evaluation which engine loses power first (left vs. right).” However, the rapidly decreasing frequency signatures noted were said to be classic examples of the acoustic characteristics of an engine losing power. The report stated that it appears that the aircraft lost power from each engine separately, one after the other.

In addition to his work getting the aircraft safely on the ground, the pilot had trouble with his oxygen mask. He said, “When I pulled on the O2 mask, I pushed the buttons to expand the harness, I took off my headset and glasses, and put the harness over my head and released the button. The harness contracted and the mask slid up my face over my eyes. I pulled it back down and held it momentarily while I put my headset back on. Then it slid up again–I had to keep pulling it down to make radio calls and talk to my partner in the aircraft. At about 10,000 or 12,000 feet, I took it off completely.”

The NTSB sent the mask to B/E Aerospace for analysis, and the company said it could find no reason for it to slip out of place.

The registered owner of the fractional-ownership aircraft is Fleet National Bank and the operator is Flight Options of Cleveland. It operates under a Part 135
on-demand air taxi certificate, but the positioning flight was operated under Part 91. Flight Options declined to comment until the NTSB investigation is complete.