Poor pilot skills downed Zurich Citation

 - March 7, 2007, 11:55 AM

The Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau blamed insufficient pilot proficiency and repeated interference of a passenger occupying the cockpit right seat as the main causes of the crash of a Spanish Citation I/SP near Zurich Airport in April 2003. In the final report on the accident, examiners emphasized that a pilot flying a fast aircraft single-pilot must be particularly rigorous and systematic in structuring flight procedures. Adverse weather also played a role in the crash.

Citation EC-HFA crashed 2,300 feet short of the airport’s Runway 14. None of the occupants was injured in the crash, but the aircraft was heavily damaged.

The pilot, a Spanish citizen, claimed to have more than 2,000 flight hours, mostly in piston aircraft. However, his flight hours were not fully documented, as this was not mandatory in Spain for light aircraft. He had flown a total of 111 hours in the Citation I/SP and 15 hours in that type within the previous 90 days.

The pilot acquired his Citation I/SP type rating in November 2002. In February 2003 he took a Citation II course, where instructors noted that he did not meet minimum standards and needed additional training in general instrument flying. They recommended he take a ground course in systems and simulator training.

EC-HFA took off on April 7, 2003, at about 10 a.m. local time at Barcelona, with one pilot and two passengers. The pilot established contact with Zurich Area Control at 11:22 and at 11:30 was instructed to enter a holding pattern via the ekrit waypoint at FL170. Weather in Zurich was cloudy with intermittent snowfall and wind gusting to 17 knots.

From the time the pilot entered the Zurich area, he had problems coping with the workload and made several mistakes with initially no consequences. The cockpit voice recorder shows that he had problems understanding radio messages in English and asked the passenger several times to translate into Spanish.

He also entered the holding pattern incorrectly, turning right instead of left at ekrit, and subsequently flew with major lateral deviations. The right-seat passenger, who held a private pilot’s license, proved helpful with understanding ATC instructions but also interrupted the pilot several times with queries unrelated to the management of the flight, leading to tension between the two.

Just before 12:05 p.m., the controller cleared the pilot to fly a heading of 110 degrees and instructed him to turn right when intercepting the localizer approximately 10 nm from the threshold of Runway 14, while maintaining an altitude of 4,000 feet.

When the pilot flew through the localizer, ATC requested: “Confirm, you are catching up the ILS.” The pilot corrected the situation but started a premature descent until ATC reminded him to maintain 4,000 feet until 8 nm from Runway 14. He then overcorrected and subsequently remained 200 to 300 feet above the glide-
slope throughout the final approach.

The aircraft reached decision height in heavy snowfall and limited visibility at 12:11. The passenger claimed to see the runway and urged the pilot to land. The pilot followed that advice and touched down 2,300 feet before the threshold on grass within the airport’s boundaries. The aircraft veered to the right and lost both its nosegear and right-main landing gear when it crossed a service road.