Final Report: Pilot blamed for fatal citation crash

 - January 10, 2008, 5:02 AM

CESSNA 501, ASHWAUBENON, WIS., APRIL 2, 2001–The NTSB attributed the probable cause of the accident to the pilot’s not maintaining aircraft control while maneuvering after takeoff and his inadequate preflight planning and preparation. Further, the Board listed factors relating to the accident: the pilot’s diverted attention while maneuvering after takeoff; his attempted VFR flight into IMC; low ceiling, snow and fog; and the airplane’s low altitude.

At approximately 4:28 p.m. the Cessna Citation crashed 1.28 mi southeast of Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) near Ashwaubenon, killing the 54-year-old pilot, the only occupant. He was attempting to fly the aircraft from GRB to his home in Fort Myers, Fla. According to FAA records, the aircraft was registered to Travelers Solution of Wilmington, Del.

N405PC was cleared for takeoff on Runway 18 about two minutes before the accident. The local controller instructed the pilot to “proceed on course; cleared for takeoff” and radar indicates the airplane began to accelerate down the runway. At 4:28 ATC told the pilot to contact departure control and the pilot responded, “Ah papa charlie we have a little problem here; we’re going to have to come back.”

The controller asked, “What approach would you like?” and the pilot responded, “Like to keep the viz.” The controller clarified, “Like the contact approach, that what you’re saying?” There was no response. GRB radar showed the airplane on a heading of 091 deg, at an altitude of 855 ft msl (160 ft agl) and an airspeed of 206 kt. By 4:28:55 radar contact was lost.

A witness said, “It was snowing moderately at that time. The road was wet but not slippery. I noted a white private jet flying from the south. It was flying at approximately a 75- to 80-degree angle perpendicular to the ground with its left wing down and teetering slightly.

“It then crossed Main Street with the lower wing tip approximately 20 to 30 feet above the power wires. The plane became more perpendicular to the ground at a 90-degree angle with the left wing down and lost altitude, crashing into the Morning Glory Dairy warehouse building.” Seven dairy employees had injuries ranging from burns to smoke inhalation.

NTSB investigators found no mechanical problems and were unable to determine why the pilot opted to return to the airport. At the time of the accident the ceiling was 200 ft broken, 800 ft overcast, visibility a half mile with snow and fog, temperature 32 deg F, dewpoint 32 deg F and wind 3 kt at 120 deg.

Witnesses at the FBO said the pilot arrived to pick up the airplane after 4 p.m. He was “briefed by the mechanic as he did his walkaround inspection.” The pilot then got into the airplane, it was towed out, the tow bar removed, and about two minutes later the engines started. Less than five minutes after the engines were started the airplane taxied out.

The NTSB Audio Laboratory reviewed communications between ATC and the pilot to determine from the speech evidence the pilot’s level of psychological stress and workload. The examination indicated his speech characteristics were consistent with the increased stress and workload that might accompany a developing emergency. Referring to the pilot’s final transmissions, the report indicated, “His unusually long reaction time suggests that he was distracted by competing cockpit priorities and/or was having a difficult time determining his answer, while his fast speech and microphone keying provide further evidence of an urgency to return to other cockpit activities.” The report stated that the pilot’s statements remained rational and showed good word choice and grammar. “These factors, along with the relatively small change in fundamental frequency, suggest that the pilot did not reach an extreme level of stress.”