Pilot dragged under Learjet 45

 - November 9, 2006, 5:42 AM

The captain of a Learjet 45 operated by German air-taxi company Cirrus Aviation was seriously injured when the airplane began to move during preflight. He fell out the door, became trapped by the nosegear door and was dragged by the airplane.

The crew was preparing the aircraft, positioned at London Gatwick earlier in the day by another crew, for a night departure to Paris. The copilot noted that the nosewheel was chocked fore and aft and climbed aboard. These wooden chocks weighed about two pounds each. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch report notes that they might have given him a false impression that the aircraft was secure.

After setting the parking brake by pulling and turning the handle he climbed into his seat, activated all three batteries, turned on the cockpit lights and, as the aircraft had no APU, started the right engine for air conditioning.

According to the AAIB report, the captain had meanwhile taken delivery of the flight catering and then went to the back of the cabin to stow his baggage. He noticed an increase in engine noise and tried to call to the copilot, who could not hear him because of the air-conditioning noise. As he came to the door he realized that the aircraft was moving, lost his balance and fell out, striking the nosegear door with enough force to bend it. He was dragged by the aircraft as it turned through nearly 180 degrees and suffered severe injuries.

The Cirrus company operations manual did not require a pilot to be sitting at the controls while an engine is running, and the AAIB considers it likely that as the copilot moved around he may have knocked the right power lever or snagged it with his clothing.

He had been half-sitting in his seat facing backwards and sensed that something was wrong, saw that the aircraft was moving, and climbed into his seat to apply the toe brakes. By this time the aircraft was swinging rapidly to the left and he could not stop it before it hit the handling agent’s van. Shutting down the engine, he exited the aircraft by climbing over the van, which was now blocking the airstairs, and assisted the agent and captain.

The normal brake system uses a two-channel brake control unit that is supplied with hydraulic pressure by an engine-driven pump on each engine. However, the emergency and parking brake system cannot be charged by the engine-driven pumps. Although the AFM describes the procedure for setting the parking brake, it is integrated with a lengthy checklist for engine start that was not always used when the engine was started solely to supply ground services. The AAIB considered it likely that it had become accepted practice within the company not to refer to a checklist in this case.

Although the copilot reiterated that he had applied the parking brake, the procedure in the AFM calls for the accumulator to be charged by activating the auxiliary hydraulic pump before applying the brake. This was not done and the copilot seemed unaware of the procedure.

The captain was a contract pilot who had logged a total of 9,500 hours, 2,450 in type, and the copilot, who had 920 hours on type, was a company employee. Stefan Buschle, CEO of Cirrus, told AIN that the company has replaced the training and flight operations managers and revised the operations manuals and the training system.