Preliminary Report: Grand Aire Falcon Crash #1

 - October 15, 2007, 6:55 AM

Dassault Falcon 20, Swanton, Ohio April 8, 2003–At approximately 1:50 p.m. EST Falcon N183GA, operated by Grand Aire Express, was destroyed when it struck trees while on an instrument approach to Toledo Express Airport (TOL) in Swanton. Both ATP-rated pilots and a pilot-rated passenger were killed in the crash. The aircraft was on an IFR flight plan in IMC for the Part 91 flight originating from Cherry Capital Airport (TVC), Traverse City, Mich.

According to the company’s director of operations, the airplane was dispatched from TOL earlier in the day for a Part 135 flight with a certified crew and an additional first officer in training who occupied the jump seat. The airplane flew to Grand Rapids Airport (GRR), Mich., picked up cargo and discharged the cargo at Traverse City.

The return flight to Toledo was planned as an instructional flight for the first officer in training, who was being prepared for his Part 135 second-in-command checkride. The company chief pilot, who was also a designated check airman, occupied the left seat. The first officer in training occupied the right seat, and the qualified first officer occupied the jump seat as a pilot-rated passenger with no required duties. There were no reported problems during the previous flights that day.

Upon arrival in the Toledo area, the pilots initiated an ILS approach to Runway 7. The approach terminated in a missed approach and the airplane was radar vectored for a second ILS approach to Runway 7. A tape of the air/ground communications between Toledo approach control and the pilots revealed that at about 1:45 p.m. Grand Aire Flight 183 was requested to maintain 180 knots to tophr, the final approach fix; the chief pilot acknowledged. About a minute later, the flight crew was told to maintain 2,300 feet until established on the localizer and they were cleared for the ILS Runway 7 approach. The crew was also instructed to maintain 180 knots to tophr. Again, the chief pilot acknowledged the clearance.

By 1:49 p.m. the pilot had not contacted the control tower so the approach controller again asked the crew to contact the tower. The chief pilot acknowledged and shortly thereafter the airplane disappeared from radar and radio contact was lost.

A witness reported seeing the airplane on approach and described it as lower than normal and north of the final approach course. She heard a popping noise as the airplane passed overhead, and when it disappeared from view she thought she heard a power reduction from the engines.

The airplane hit trees and came to rest on level ground 1.57 nm from the approach end of Runway 7. The debris trail measured 360 feet from the first tree strike to the nose of the airplane. The airplane and debris trails were on a magnetic heading of 060 degrees. Multiple trees were broken in a descending angle of 20 degrees that led to the airplane.

A post-crash fire consumed the fuselage. Both engines were still mounted to their pylons and had separated from the remaining structure, and the vertical and horizontal stabilizers were attached to the fuselage. The elevator jackscrew was found set at 4.5 degrees, which, according to a representative of Dassault Aviation, corresponded to the bottom of the green arc for takeoff. Both wings had separated from the fuselage and were broken into several pieces. Five of the six wing-flap jackscrews were identified and all were in the retracted position, corresponding to the wing flaps up position. The airplane was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or flight-data recorder and was not required by regulations to have either.

The 1:52 p.m. weather observation at TOL included wind from 300 degrees at nine knots, visibility one mile, mist, ceiling 300 feet overcast, temperature zero degrees, dew point -1 degree C and surface visibility 1.75 miles. Interviews with the pilots of two airplanes that were following the accident airplane revealed that they had been operating with anti-ice on. One pilot reported no problems with ice, and the other pilot reported moderate rime icing. An investigation is still under way.