OTS navaid lef to CFIT fatal

 - May 21, 2008, 11:17 AM

KING AIR C90, SOMERSET, KY., JAN. 18, 2000–Factual information in the investigation of a King Air–N74CC–that collided with a communications antenna while shooting the approach into Somerset-Pulaski County-JT Wilson Field (SME) in Somerset, Ky., was recently released by the NTSB. An ATP-rated pilot and three passengers were killed in the crash.

The pilot for the Hart Co. of South Hampton, Pa., was on a multi-day trip that began the day before from his home base at Philadelphia Northeast Airport (PNE). After an overnight stop in Columbus (Ohio) State University Airport (OSU), he had the turboprop topped off with jet-A and called to file an IFR flight plan and get a weather briefing at 0834. No forecast was available for Somerset so the pilot was provided the forecast for London, Ky., 26 mi to the east. The weather was reported across the area as 500 ft scattered, with occasional ceilings at 500 ft broken, 1,000 ft overcast and visibility five miles in mist and occasionally two miles in light drizzle and mist. The briefer also reminded the pilot that icing and turbulence were probable for the route.

He called FSS again just after 1000 and requested an update. The 0954 observation at SME included a 300-ft-overcast ceiling. The forecast was updated to show wind from 330 deg at seven knots, visibility six miles, ceiling 800 ft overcast with occasional visibility five miles in mist or light fog and ceilings of 500 ft overcast between 1100 and 1500. The NTSB’s report notes the pilot declined notams at this briefing, saying he already had them.

The pilot and three passengers departed OSU at 1047 and had no problems en route. He checked in with Indianapolis ARTCC around 1140 and the controller asked if he had weather for Somerset, which he said he did. The pilot requested and was cleared for the SDF approach into Somerset at 1145:15 The clearance required him to maintain 4,000 ft until established on the approach. The controller repeated the clearance and specified the SDF approach to Runway 4 and the pilot again acknowledged the clearance. Three minutes later a transmission was received: “Ah, Indy four charlie charlie.” It was not acknowledged and there were no further transmissions.

According to the NTSB, both Jeppesen and NOS publish four charts for Somerset: SDF Runway 4, NDB Runway 4, GPS Runway 4 and GPS Runway 22. The NDB approach is published as unmonitored. The SDF approach had been out of service (OTS) indefinitely and was beyond the 56-day government publishing cycle, meaning it was no longer in the notam D loop. It was published as a class II notam, was in the Airport Facilities Directory (AFD) and also in the chart notam section of Jeppesen’s publications.

Procedurally, if an approach fails a flight check and the facility does not want the approach removed, it is “notamed” out of service. Theoretically, at the end of the 56-day cycle, the notam is published in the AFD. When an approach is removed from the FAA’s system, it must be recertified in the same way a new approach is approved. Once it has been recertified, another notam is issued and the resulting AFD is changed to reflect the reinstated status at the end of the 56-day cycle of the notam.

The NTSB checked the airport manager’s office and found the NDB was turned on and the Morse code identification could be heard in the background. The Safety Board found that SDF control box was turned off at both the control box in the airport office and at the transmitter, meaning there was no way the navaid could even have been identified. In addition, the aircraft was equipped with a GPS that was placarded as not approved for IFR. The company had a new flight director (FD) installed in the King Air so it could be coupled to the autopilot. This was the third leg flown with the new FD installed.

Finally, as part of the investigation the NTSB formed an air traffic group to research what layer ATC added to this accident. Excerpts of the group’s report included an explanation of the sectors controlling the aircraft during the approach. “The Hazard and London Low [altitude] sectors were combined at Hazard Low at the time the approach clearance was issued. These combined sectors were staffed with both a radar controller and an associate radar controller. The pilot of N74CC was never advised to change to the airport advisory frequency. The radar controller told Safety Board investigators that he had forgotten that the SDF-4 approach was out of service, although a status information sheet for the sector indicated the approach was out of service. The radar controller told Safety Board investigators that he had not reviewed the status information sheet. The associate radar controller told Safety Board investigators he thought he heard the radar controller clear the pilot for a global positioning system (GPS-4) approach and had marked the flight strip accordingly. It was not until the facility inquired about the status of the airplane and learned of the crash that it was discovered that the radar controller had cleared the airplane for the SDF-4 approach.”