UK TBM 700 crash eerily reminiscent of others

 - March 30, 2007, 7:16 AM

The Air Accident Investigation Branch of the British Department of Transport is adopting a cautious approach to its investigation of the crash of Socata TBM 700 N30LT at Oxford Airport (EGTK), England, on December 6, according to an agency spokesman. Sixty- nine-year-old multimillionaire Paul- Louis Halley, of France’s Carrefour supermarket chain, his wife and the Belgian pilot were killed in the accident.

According to an AAIB preliminary report, at about 1120 UTC the aircraft, which was inbound from Brussels (EBBR), was making a DME/NDB approach to Oxford’s Runway 01. At an estimated 50 feet agl and at the beginning of the flare the aircraft reportedly rolled to the left and then hit the ground about 150 feet west of the runway threshold. The aircraft was extensively damaged and all three aboard were killed instantly. There was no post-crash fire, and weather is not believed to be a factor.

In an 18-month span there have been two previous TBM 700 accidents of a similar nature, one each in France and Scotland, where apparent loss of control in the flare led to an accident. From the report published by the French BEA air accident authority regarding the crash of TBM 700 N700AR on May 13, 2002, the mishap occurred at the end of an aerial photography session to the north of Clermont-Ferrand, in Central France.

According to the pilot, who had 2,100 hours TT and 35 in type, he joined a right-hand base leg for 4,200-foot Runway 08 at Moulins. On short final, with a low power setting, he realized that he was slightly low on the approach and thus increased power slightly and raised the nose to maintain the 85-knot approach speed.

In the flare, he decided that the aircraft nose was too high and elected to perform a missed approach. As he moved the power lever forward to apply power, the aircraft banked to the left and he was unable to prevent the wingtip from striking the ground. The TBM 700’s landing gear then struck the ground and broke off, and in about 300 feet the aircraft came to rest. A post-crash fire erupted on the left side, and the crew safely evacuated the aircraft.

The BEA summary draws attention to the airplane flight manual, which calls for power to be maintained above 10 percent until touchdown as there can be up to five seconds delay for the PT6 to spool up. Although it was not possible to establish the actual power setting at the flare, the pilot said he had made the approach with low power and that he might have been in the power band where engine response was degraded. The pilot made no mention of any stall warning before the wing drop.

The second accident concerns TBM 700 N700VA, which was destroyed while attempting to land at Dundee Airport (EGPN) after a flight from Edinburgh (EGPH) on October 24. The report by the AAIB was compiled from an accident-report form completed by the commercial-rated pilot, who reported 3,170 hours TT, 65 of which were in the TBM 700.

In his report, the pilot said the flight from Edinburgh had been uneventful and he conducted a visual approach to 4,500-foot Runway 28. After the flare the aircraft floated for a short distance before bouncing lightly on touchdown. During the bounce, the aircraft initially yawed left and then rolled in the same direction, with no stall warning. The pilot applied full right rudder, but this action failed to correct the yaw. He then applied takeoff power and attempted a go-around while holding in rudder.

Despite this, the pilot was unable to prevent the left wing from hitting the ground and the aircraft yawed rapidly to the left, with one wheel hitting a low wall that separated the airport from the estuary of the River Tay. The pilot reduced power and ditched in the river about 50 feet from the shoreline. The pilot and the three passengers safely exited via the main door and were rescued.