Report Published on Challenger Upset in Russia

 - April 7, 2014, 11:25 AM

A Finnish-registered Bombardier Challenger 300 climbing toward St. Petersburg, Russia, experienced an uncommanded pitch-up that injured two of the six people on board. The aircraft had just departed Moscow Sheremetyevo (UUEE) Airport for a charter flight on Dec. 23, 2010 and quickly returned to Moscow, where the injured were taken to hospital.

The first officer was flying the departure as a new employee of the charter operator, according to the final investigative report from Finland’s Safety Investigation Authority. Just before takeoff both pilots noticed compass errors that they reset using the directional gyro mode. During the climb, the compass mode was switched back to normal. Almost immediately, the crew received an “autopilot stabilizer trim failure” light, as well as an “autopilot holding nose down” light.

The first officer relinquished control of the airplane to the captain and began to run the checklist for the failures. The captain firmly gripped the control wheel and turned off the autopilot, but the aircraft’s nose immediately pitched up and was followed by a seven-second series of oscillations before the captain regained control.

After landing back at Moscow, the pilot–following company procedures–pulled the circuit breaker to protect the cockpit voice recorder. The CVR was later found to be blank. The investigation determined that the first officer’s flight director had not been configured properly before takeoff and that he incorrectly used the takeoff-go-around button after takeoff to try to resync the system. The sync attempt occurred just as the aircraft was about to level off at a pre-assigned altitude, resulting in the error messages. Although the failure checklist limited the aircraft to a 250-knot maximum speed, the crew allowed the aircraft to accelerate to 300 knots.

The Finnish investigators classified this as an accident and attributed the cause to the following factors: the first officer’s failure to set the flight director properly before takeoff and incorrect setting of the heading bug before takeoff; seat-belt signs turned off by the captain during the climb despite the potential for aircraft control problems, as well as the captain’s overcorrecting the aircraft’s pitch angle after autopilot disconnection; and overall inadequate situational analysis.