Factual Report: EMS King Air down in mountains in night IMC

 - September 28, 2006, 4:47 AM

Raytheon Beech King Air 90, Rawlins, Wyo., Jan. 11, 2005–The Yampa Valley Air Ambulance King Air crashed on the VOR/GPS approach to Runway 22 at Rawlins Municipal Airport/Harvey Field (RWL) at 9:45 p.m. in night IMC. The ATP pilot and two flight nurses were killed, the flight paramedic was seriously injured and the airplane was destroyed. The emergency medical services (EMS) repositioning flight originated in Steamboat Springs, Colo., home base of owner and operator Mountain Flight Service, on an IFR flight plan. It was to pick up a patient at Rawlins for transport to Casper, Wyo.

After telling the pilot to expect the Runway 22 VOR/GPS approach, Denver Center cleared the King Air to descend “at pilot’s discretion, maintain one one thousand.” Center then told the pilot to cross the Rawlins VOR at or above 11,000 feet and cleared him for the approach. Radar contact was lost when the airplane was eight miles east of RWL at 9,200 feet msl. The airplane was flying a heading of approximately 090 degrees, indicating it was midway through the procedure turn inbound for the Runway 22 approach. The pilot had logged more than 4,000 hours.

The automated weather system at RWL reported a broken ceiling at 1,100 feet agl, 1,800 feet broken and 3,100 overcast; visibility 2.5 sm; light snow and mist; temperature 33 degrees F, dew point 30; and wind 240 degrees at three knots. Several witnesses said that surface weather conditions varied from freezing rain to heavy snow.

The wreckage was located on January 12 approximately 2.5 miles northeast of RWL in mountainous terrain. The airplane hit the side of a 7,269-foot ridge line at approximately 7,065 feet. Clear ice measuring half an inch thick was found on the right propeller blade, and 1.5-inch-thick ice covered the de-icing boots on the wings. Clear ice also covered the right tire and the vertical stabilizer “from its base to the top.”

The flight originally had been scheduled with Wyoming Medical Center, but the pilot on duty declined the flight because of the weather, which was below Part 135 minimums. He later agreed to go when the weather at Rawlins improved but the company received a more urgent call and the flight was shifted to Yampa Valley