Final Report: Stall blamed in King Air crash

 - December 19, 2007, 12:12 PM

BEECHCRAFT KING AIR B200, LEOMINSTER, MASS., APRIL 4, 2003–The NTSB determined that the pilot’s low-altitude maneuver with an excessive bank angle and his failure to maintain airspeed, which resulted in an inadvertent stall and subsequent crash into a building, caused the loss of King Air N257CG. A factor was the pilot’s impairment from prescription medications; he had morphine, the antidepressants desipramine and imipramine and the anticonvulsant carbamazepine in his system, which have detrimental effects on cognitive functions.

According to the pilot’s medical records, he suffered from a severe neurological disorder, possibly a seizure disorder, which caused frequent, unpredictable episodes of debilitating pain. Additionally, three months before the accident he was diagnosed with viral meningitis and a severe skin infection with multiple abscesses on his arm; he refused treatment for the latter. The pilot had been prescribed the antidepressant and anticonvulsant drugs, yet on his last medical application a year before the crash, he said he currently did not use any medication. He also replied “no” to item 18.1 “Neurological disorders: epilepsy, seizures, stroke, paralysis, etc.,” and “no” to item 19 “Visits to health professional within last three years.”

All but one of the occupants of the airplane were killed when the airplane hit a factory building while on approach to Fitchburg Airport at 9:35 a.m. After leaving La Guardia Airport, with five passengers on an IFR flight plan, in IMC, to Hanscom Field, Bedford, Mass., the crew later amended the destination to Fitchburg. Visibility there was 1.5 to 5 miles in fog, freezing rain and light snow, with an overcast that ranged from 700 to 1,400 feet. Both the pilot and copilot had checked the weather. The airplane, registered to FS Corsair of Concord, Mass., and operating as a Part 91 flight, was substantially damaged.

The sole survivor, a 13-year-old girl, reported that when they were close to landing, she felt the airplane enter a left turn, and the airplane became “almost completely upside down.” It briefly straightened out, then entered another left turn with a bank angle of the same severity. The airplane then seemed to roll level “just for a second,” then entered a dive “straight down” until it hit the building.

The survivor also noted that the engines were running “normally” throughout the entire flight. The steep turns did not concern her, she told the NTSB, as she had flown with the pilot before and knew he “liked to make sharp turns.”

A witness on the ground saw the airplane fly directly over Runway 14 “going in and out of low scattered clouds.” The King Air turned slightly to the right to join a left downwind for Runway 32, “in close, and very slow and low.” The airplane continued on a close tight downwind, making a slight left turn, then a steep left base-to-final turn, “90 degrees wings up.”

One witness saw the airplane make a turn “so sharp that the wings were vertical,” then enter a “nose-dive.” Weather conditions were “extremely poor,” with a low cloud deck and freezing rain.

Radar data showed the airplane descended along the GPS Runway 14 final approach course at an average groundspeed of 120 knots. It descended from 2,800 feet at the final approach fix to 1,600 feet at the missed approach point (MAP). After crossing the MAP at 9:32 a.m., the airplane maintained approximately the same course, and continued to descend, passing over the approach end of Runway 2 at an altitude of about 1,300 feet. It continued along the same course, until the last radar return was recorded at an altitude of 800 feet, at 9:34 a.m. The last radar return was positioned to the left of course, and was located approximately one nautical mile from the threshold of Runway 32.