Accidents: Final Report - CONTROLLER ERROR CONSIDERED IN FATAL ACCIDENT
Hawker Beechcraft King Air B100, Benavides, Texas, Oct. 26, 2009–After taking off from Garner Field Airport in Uvalde, Texas, on a Part 91 IFR flight, the King Air (registered to Mazak Properties) crashed during an encounter with severe weather.
The private pilot and three passengers were killed and the aircraft was destroyed. Before departure, the pilot received three weather briefings from an automated flight service station and expressed his concern about the conditions. According to investigators, he altered his flight plan in an attempt to fly around storms.
Soon after takeoff, he contacted Houston ATC and noted that the aircraft’s radar was painting a squall line, to which the controller acknowledged, “Yes, there is a significant squall line between you and your destination. Not sure how you are going to get through, but we’ll work on it somehow.” The controller issued a heading and soon amended it when the pilot requested a route toward Corpus Christi. Twenty minutes later, and less than an hour after takeoff, the aircraft left its assigned altitude and the pilot reported encountering “pretty good turbulence.” The twin turboprop vanished from radar two minutes later.
According to calculations based on data from radar and the aircraft’s recovered EGPWS, over the last 26 seconds of the flight, rate of descent ranged from 24,111 fpm to a peak of more than 40,000 fpm. A review of the National Weather Service Doppler radar for the area showed the aircraft entered an area of radar echoes ranging from very heavy to intense, with severe turbulence, and likely lightning and hail. Stronger echoes with reflectiveness in the extreme range were located in the immediate vicinity along the intended flight path.
Investigators interviewed the controller who handled the aircraft and concluded that the ATC services provided were not in compliance with FAA requirements. The controller stated that he saw a hole in the weather ahead of the King Air; recorded data and the statement of a second controller working another position at the time of the accident contradicted that statement.