Factual Report: MU-2 Flight Was Erratic Before Crash

 - October 10, 2006, 9:35 AM

Mitsubishi MU-2B-36, Pittsfield, Mass., March 25, 2004– Royal Air Freight’s MU-2 was substantially damaged and the ATP pilot killed when the airplane crashed in Pittsfield in VMC. The Part 135 trip originated in Pontiac, Mich., about 11:30 the previous evening. The pilot picked up cargo in Rockford, Ill., then flew to Hagerstown, Md., where he dropped off cargo. An IFR flight plan had been filed from Hagerstown, to Bangor, Maine. The FSS specialist asked the pilot if he was aware of turbulence and icing advisories, and mountain obscurations in New England. He responded, “Yeah, I got all the weather.” The pilot took off from Hagerstown at 4:23 a.m. All ATC transmissions from the pilot were routine.

The airplane continued level at 17,100 feet at 255 knots groundspeed. It climbed 300 feet, then descended abruptly, losing 3,000 feet in 14 seconds. Speed was maintained. It climbed and descended erratically until it entered a continuous descent; the last radar contact was at 2,400 feet.

One witness described a loud grinding sound coming from the airplane, similar to “a metal I-beam going through a grinder.” She saw the airplane spinning in a nose-high, tail-low attitude, almost as if it were “hovering.” The airplane began to “veer to the right,” as the metallic noise stopped. She then heard a “whining” sound as the airplane continued to spin. Three other witnesses reported the airplane was in a flat spin.

The ATP pilot was type-rated in Learjets and had a flight instructor certificate, as well as airplane single- and multi-engine land, and instrument ratings. He had a first-class medical certificate and 6,500 hours of flight time. Light- to moderate-intensity echoes surrounded the area with tops to 25,000 feet. Four pilots reported light to moderate rime to mixed icing in the clouds from the freezing level to 16,000 feet. Two pilots reported cloud tops from 16,000 to 17,000 feet.

The cabin pressurization was set to 15,500 feet, the right pitot/ static heat and the stall-warning heat were on. Propeller de-ice, engine intake heat, wind- shield anti-ice and wing de-ice were all in the “off” position.

Pseudoephedrine and diphenhydramine were detected in the pilot’s body.