Preliminary Report: Grand Aire Falcon Crash #2

 - October 15, 2007, 6:57 AM

DASSAULT FALCON 20, ST. LOUIS, MO., APRIL 8, 2003–At 6:50 p.m. CDT Falcon N179GA, operated by Grand Aire Express, was destroyed when it ditched into the Mississippi River near St. Louis. The airplane was approaching Runway 30R at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) when it lost power to both engines. The Part 135 cargo flight was operating on an IFR flight plan in IMC. The pilot and first officer, the only occupants of the aircraft, received serious injuries. The airplane had departed from the Del Rio International Airport (DRT), Texas, at about 4:30 p.m.

N179GA received vectors from ATC for the ILS 30R approach to STL. During the first approach, the STL tower controller initially cleared the airplane to land on Runway 30R. Later, the airplane was instructed to climb to 3,000 feet and contact departure control. The airplane was then vectored for a second approach to Runway 30R.

While being vectored for the second approach, the flight crew asked controllers several times how far they were to be vectored away from the airport. When the airplane was on a base leg for landing, the flight crew reported that they had a “fuel limitation.” They were then issued vectors and cleared for the ILS 30R approach. After being switched to the tower frequency, the flight crew declared an emergency and reported they “lost the port engine,” their last communication with ATC. The starboard engine subsequently stopped and the crew made a dead-stick ditching in the Mississippi River.

The next day the airplane was recovered from the Mississippi River and placed on a barge for examination. The airplane was recovered in two parts. The aft fuselage structure, including the tail surfaces and engines, was separated at the trailing edge of the wing. The aft fuselage remained attached to the forward fuselage by cables, wiring and plumbing. The wings remained attached to the forward section of the fuselage.

Before the recovery, the airplane was almost completely submerged. Only the wingtips and the forward section of the fuselage at the break were visible. The nose cone of the airplane was recovered from the shore of the river, upstream of the main wreckage. An on-site inspection did not yield evidence of any pre-crash malfunctions that might have contributed to the accident. The fuel tanks were drained and a large amount of water was drained from each wing tank. No measurable quantity of fuel was recovered during the draining process. An investigation is continuing.