Piper Cheyenne, March 15, 2013, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (FXE)–The NTSB reports that the aircraft might have been attempting to return to the airport after encountering an unspecified power failure when it crashed shortly after takeoff at 4:20 p.m. The turboprop twin had departed FXE eastbound on 6,000-foot-long Runway 8 for a short maintenance flight and was expected to make a left turn northwest. Instead, after takeoff it banked sharply right back toward the airport just after the pilot said he was experiencing an “emergency.” The aircraft crashed in a nearby parking lot after it appeared to stall, killing the pilot and two passengers, according to the NTSB.
A pilot witness at the airport told the NTSB the aircraft appeared to have difficulty climbing and barely cleared obstacles at the end of the runway. The witness said the aircraft appeared to shake before it rolled 90 degrees to the right and crashed. The aircraft was destroyed by post-crash fire.
Preliminary investigation of the remaining parts indicated the right engine was not turning at the same rpm as the left. The aircraft had flown 135 hours in the five years before the accident.
Preliminary Report: Three Perish in Louisiana Helicopter Crash
Sikorsky S-76A, near Grand Lake, La., March 15, 2013–A Part 91 Era Helicopters S-76A being test flown after maintenance crashed about 30 minutes after its departure from Lake Charles, La. (LCH), killing the pilot and two maintenance technicians aboard. A post-crash fire consumed the helicopter.
As the aircraft was on the return leg to LCH at approximately 1,000 feet agl, the pilot reported to ATC an emergency that required an immediate landing five miles southeast of the airport. Another helicopter pilot witness reported he saw the accident helicopter in a shallow descent as it passed just east of his house about 600 feet agl. He said the helicopter was making an unusual grinding noise as it passed.
Preliminary investigation at the accident scene revealed two of the helicopter’s four tail-rotor blades were missing; they have yet to be recovered. Weather at the time of the accident was VFR with southerly wind at 13 knots gusting to 19.
Preliminary Report: Premier Crashes into Homes During Go-Around Attempt
Hawker Beechcraft Premier IA, South Bend, Ind. (SBN), March 17, 2013–The pilot and right cockpit-seat passenger of a Beech Premier IA operating under Part 91 were killed when the aircraft crashed shortly after the initiation of a go-around at SBN’s Runway 9R at 4:23 p.m. The aircraft struck the tops of two homes just east of the airport before crashing into a third. Two passengers in the cabin were seriously injured, as was one person on the ground.
The flight was attempting to land in VFR conditions following a flight from Tulsa, Okla., at the time of the accident. As the aircraft was being vectored for a visual approach to Runway 9R, approximately eight minutes before the accident, the pilot radioed that he had lost engine power and intended to attempt a power-off landing at SBN. The approach controller offered vectors to the airport but eventually lost radio contact shortly after the pilot reported that the aircraft had lost all power.
With the airplane on short final to the runway, and apparently in spite of the pilot’s earlier announcement that he had lost all power, the tower instructed the pilot to go around because only the nose landing gear was down. Witnesses said the aircraft did go around and executed another visual approach without the main gear extended. On its second go-around the Premier made a climbing right turn, followed quickly by a descent from which it never recovered.
Preliminary Report: Meridian Substantially Damaged on Landing
Piper PA-46-500TP, Brenham, Texas, March 13, 2013–The pilot of the Meridian was demonstrating a simulated forced landing to two other people aboard at about 10:30 a.m. local time when he realized the aircraft was descending at a greater rate than anticipated. Although the pilot attempted to add power, the PT6’s response was insufficient to carry the aircraft to the runway and it crashed short of the threshold at Brenham Municipal Airport’s (11R) Runway 34. No one aboard was injured.
The pilot reported to the NTSB that he took the turboprop to 3,500 feet, then reduced engine power and began a spiral over the airport for left traffic to Runway 34. The pilot stated that he attempted to increase engine power to slow the rate of descent but he did not “hear or feel an indication of [engine] power increasing.”
Preliminary Report: Alaska State Helicopter Accident Kills Three
Eurocopter AS350B3, Talkeetna, 80 nm north of Anchorage, Alaska, March 31, 2013–Two Alaska State Troopers and an injured passenger were killed when their AStar crashed into a wooded area near Lake Larson about 11:15 p.m. local time. The two troopers had rescued the injured snowmobile rider moments earlier and were in the process of transporting him back to connect with paramedics in Talkeetna at the time of the accident. The officers radioed their dispatcher a few minutes before the accident that they had the injured man aboard and were returning to meet the paramedics. The helicopter never arrived, and rescuers located it the next morning. The AStar had been destroyed by a post-impact fire.
Final Report: CFIT Pilot was Under the Influence
Cessna 208B Caravan, Lutsel K’e, Northwest Territories, Canada, Oct. 4, 2011–AT200, a regularly scheduled Air Tindi Caravan flight–departed Yellowknife Northwest Territories at 11:03 a.m. mountain time bound for Lutsel K’e with the pilot and three passengers aboard. When the aircraft failed to arrive as scheduled, a search located the wreckage 26 nm west of its destination near the crest of Pehtei Peninsula approximately 38 feet below the peak of the highest terrain in the area. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) determined the cause of the accident was controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). Post-mortem toxicology testing indicated the presence of cannabinoids in the pilot’s system, including a “considerable amount” of THC, the principal psychoactive drug found in marijuana and hashish.
The pilot and one passenger were dead when rescue teams located the aircraft; two other passengers were seriously injured. The accident aircraft was configured to carry as many as seven passengers, although some versions of the C208 can be configured to carry more. At the time of the accident, Canadian commercial service regulations did not require aircraft of the Caravan category to be equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (Taws). That regulation was changed in July last year to include aircraft with six or more revenue seats installed, such as the Caravan.
The TSB report said, “Flight simulator experiments have demonstrated that THC has wide-ranging effects on human performance, including impairment of working memory, coordination, tracking, perceptual-motor performance and vigilance. The effects of impairment increase with the complexity of the task.” The TSB research added, “Generally, after a single dose of marijuana, there will be some impairment for up to six hours,” and as many as 24 hours depending upon the dose of the drug. Current Canadian regulations, unlike those in the U.S., do not require people employed in federally regulated transportation industries to submit to toxicological testing.
The commercial pilot of the Caravan had logged 2,170 hours of flight time, 182 of them in the Caravan. During the initial review of the pilot’s performance and decision making just before the crash, the TSB reported he had flown the accident aircraft the day before in IFR conditions on a VFR flight plan from Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, to Yellowknife along airway V-339. The aircraft was properly equipped and certified for IFR flight, as was the pilot. Before takeoff on the day of the accident, the pilot decided to fuel the aircraft with VFR-only reserves for the Yellowknife-Lutsel K’e leg under VFR conditions, but not enough fuel to meet IFR reserves. There were no weight issues that would have prevented the pilot from adding more fuel for the trip. Portions of the flights the day before, as well as on the day of the accident, took the Caravan over open water at altitudes that precluded gliding to shore safely in the event of an engine failure. The aircraft was not equipped with any flotation devices for its occupants in the event of such a power failure.
The pilot had reached the PIC position through an internal Air Tindi mentoring program that allowed low-time pilots to progress through a series of checks and balances as copilots on a variety of aircraft before being allowed to command a flight alone. The pilot obtained a commercial certificate in 2004, gaining experience on the Twin Otter and King Air 200 before he began Caravan training in February 2011. He passed a VFR-only checkride in March 2011 but failed his single-engine IFR checkride the first time due to difficulties operating the GPS. With additional training, he passed his IFR ride in August 2011, two months before the accident.
On the day of the accident, the pilot was properly qualified for IFR flight with one exception: he was four days overdue for his recurrent CFIT training. A TSB review of the pilot’s previous flight times did not indicate any fatigue issues that might have been related to the accident.
On the day of the accident, weather at Yellowknife included marginal conditions for VFR flight below low cloud decks that appeared to drop even lower as the aircraft approached the destination. The pilot radioed to Lutsel K’e a position report that was later determined to be in error by six miles, indicating the pilot may have believed he was already out over the open water of Great Slave Lake and could safely descend to maintain VFR flight.
As it proceeded to the probable-cause stage of this accident, the board was unable to determine why the pilot chose to conduct the flight under VFR, except that the pilot’s single-pilot IFR experience was considered “limited.” In an almost contradictory operating style, the pilot had demonstrated his willingness just the day before to remain above terrain by flying in the clouds without a clearance. Most of the flight on the Yellowknife-Lutsel K’e leg was conducted in uncontrolled airspace, which would have allowed the pilot to climb into the clouds without a clearance initially and land at Lutsel K’e using an IFR approach if he chose.
The Board decided that pilot’s flight planning on the day of the accident was consistent with impairment that might be expected of a person under the influence of a psychoactive drug, including his decision to fly the trip VFR in marginal weather, the decision to carry less fuel than the aircraft was allowed for an IFR trip, as well as the choice of routes that took the aircraft over open water when no flotation gear was on board.
The TSB determined that “the aircraft was flown at low altitude into an area of low forward visibility during a day VFR flight, which prevented the pilot from seeing and avoiding terrain.” The Board also found that “the concentrations of cannabinoids were sufficient to have caused impairment in pilot performance and decision making on the accident flight.”