Final Report: Failed ILS approach kills N.J. legislator and family

 - May 19, 2008, 8:09 AM

MITSUBISHI MU-2B-26A, EDGARTOWN, MASS., OCT. 6, 2000–The NTSB issued the final report and probable cause on the fatal crash of former New Jersey legislator Charles Yates. Yates, his wife, Anya, and their two young children perished when he failed to execute an ILS approach into Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY). The Board cited “the pilot’s failure to follow instrument flight procedures, resulting in a collision with a tree. A factor related to the accident was the low ceiling.”

Shortly after 2100 EDT, the pilot departed VFR from Trenton (N.J.) Mercer Airport (TTN). According to investigators, Yates neither obtained a weather briefing nor filed a flight plan for the night cross-country flight. He finished talking with TTN tower about two minutes after departure and began talking with ATC through Cape Approach Control at 2138. Yates requested an IFR clearance into MVY; the weather was two miles visibility in mist, an overcast layer of clouds at 100 ft and wind from 340 deg at 12 kt. The temperature and dew point registered 55 deg F and the altimeter setting was 29.86 Hg.

Cape Approach issued the approach clearance into MVY about four miles
from borst, the final approach fix. After initial vectoring, the controller told Yates to turn left to a heading of 230 deg and descend to 1,500 ft until established on the localizer for the ILS Runway 24. Yates acknowledged the clearance and asked for confirmation on the heading. The controller replied “continue left turn to heading of” 220 deg and handed him off to the Vineyard tower.

Yates checked in with an MVY tower controller, who told him to report borst inbound, which he acknowledged. Radar data taken at 2146:03 shows the MU-2 crossed the MVY VOR at 3,000 ft from the southwest. At 2148:57 the MU-2 was tracked at 2,900 ft, about eight miles east of the airport, heading 88 deg. Two minutes later radar data showed the airplane heading 44 deg at 1,700 ft and 10 mi east of MVY. At 2150:41 it was headed 331 deg at 1,500 ft. Over the next two minutes it turned toward the south and descended to 600 ft, all the while still outside the final approach fix, which carries 1,500 ft as the minimum altitude. At 2153:14 the controller issued a low altitude alert and stated a 29.87 altimeter setting. Yates replied, “Bravo Tango [N60BT] climbing.”

At this point the tower controller asked Yates what type of aircraft he was and how long he would be staying on the island. Yates replied that he was in a Mitsubishi and would be staying until Monday. At 2154:54 Yates broadcast he was “crossing” borst intersection. Radar data later showed him about four miles out, roughly 700 ft below glideslope and heading 245 deg. The tower controller cleared him to land, which he acknowledged. ATC heard no further radio transmissions.

Investigators found the wreckage in a wooded area about three quarters of a mile from the threshold of Runway 24 and about 50 ft right of the extended centerline. The turboprop hit a tree with the left horizontal stabilizer, which investigators found with an eight-inch “U” shaped dent and recovered just 22 ft from the first tree strike. They found the fuselage some 210 ft farther down the wreckage path.

Yates was a commercial pilot, authorized for single- and multi-engine land airplanes, with an instrument rating. His logbook showed 1,946 hr TT, including 252 hr in make and model. He had about 178 hr of night time logged and 209 hr of actual instrument time. Yates last completed an instrument competency check on Jan. 2, 1999.

Investigators found a remark in the pilot’s logbook, followed by a certified flight instructor signature, which read “completed flight safety MU-2 initial course.” Investigators interviewed a FlightSafety instructor, who confirmed the pilot participated in ground and simulator training in early 1999. He said the pilot had 1,470 flight hours at the time of the course, with virtually no turbine experience. The instructor told investigators the pilot had a positive attitude but he did not meet the minimum standards of FlightSafety during the simulator sessions and left without completing the course.

He returned for recurrent training in August 1999. The instructor described the simulator session for investigators, saying the pilot needed to be “spoon fed” procedures and techniques. His analysis of the pilot’s flying is summed up in his observation: “He was still a 100-knot pilot in a 300-knot airplane.” As long as the weather was VFR or there were no emergencies, Yates could maintain control. The instructor advised the pilot, before he left “without completing” the course, that he should find a qualified pilot to fly with him and avoid IMC.

On October 4, two days before the accident, Yates picked up the MU-2 from a maintenance facility in Rhode Island. The aircraft was fresh out of a 100-hr inspection during which the facility repaired the turn coordinator. According to the NTSB investigation, the facility owner “advised the pilot that the pilot-side horizontal situation indicator (HSI) was still inoperative and suggested that it be removed for repair before departing.” Yates told the owner that he would have it fixed by another shop and he would fly the MU-2 as it was. He told the owner that the upcoming weekend was important and didn’t want a problem with the HSI
to ruin it.

NTSB investigators talked with an individual who sold the accident airplane to the pilot. This person had a conversation with the pilot about a week before the accident about the inoperative HSI. Yates told the sales agent he had been flying the airplane using the right side instruments for the last four to five trips. The sales agent recommended several facilities qualified to repair the HSI, but Yates told him he would have it fixed at the Rhode Island facility the next time it was in the shop.

Investigators found the landing gear in the extended position and the flaps set to 20 deg. They recovered the pilot’s altimeter but were unable to glean any information from the rest of the flight instruments due to fire damage. In tests at the Safety Board’s Materials Laboratory, researchers found the altimeter set to 29.83 in.